La Gloria Cubana Serie R Belicoso

La Gloria Cubana Serie R BelicosoBy now, you’ve probably noticed a recent addition to my sidebar: The Blue Havana II logo. And perhaps, because you’re very observant, you’ve wondered, “what’s up with that?” Well here’s the scoop. Anybody who gives me a cigar to review automatically qualifies as a “friend of the blog”. And earlier this year, Jim Luftman, the owner of the local B&M named Blue Havana II did just that.

Jim has been a good friend since we met at RTDA last year (pictures), and actually deserved some recognition much earlier than this. But beyond that, he runs a great shop and is always thinking about better ways to serve the customer. A quick walk through his humidor will show you what I mean. He’s taken the time to stick color-coded labels on all of his cigar facings to give you a quick idea of the fullness of a given cigar. And when you take a peek in any box, you’ll see the complete line of cigars sitting there, all vitolas in stock, side-by-side for comparison. As if that weren’t enough, it seems like he’s alway got contests, herfs, events and sales happening in shop. There just always a reason to stop by.

OK, back to the cigar. Jim tells me that the Belicoso vitola is a recent addition to the very popular Serie R line. And when I last visited his shop, they had only just arrived. While I haven’t been able to locate much information specifically about the Belicoso, I can tell you a little about the Serie R line. This line of cigars was created with the sole purpose of giving the cigar industry what it’s been looking for. Sales have shown that cigar smokers have been very interested in larger ring gauges and fuller-bodied smokes. One look at the Serie R offerings in your local B&M will show you that they’ve got the ring gauge nailed. But let’s see if they’ve produced a good stick.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 3/4 x 56
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: $9.25

The Pre-Smoke
The Serie R Belicoso is visually a very bold, very striking cigar. It’s size says very clearly that it’s not kidding around. It’s no puny robusto, it’s gonna be around for a while, and it intends to be noticed. The classic band with the thick band of red seems to highlight it’s size.

In my inspection of the wrapper, I found it to be nicely smooth in spite of some visually apparent veins. One cigar had a minor flaw in the wrapper, a vein had poked a small hole and was sticking out just a bit. The other cigar had no noticeable flaws, and both firmly packed with tobacco.

In testing the scent of the wrapper, I found it to have a very pleasant sweet barnyard smell, with a nice molasses flavor in the cold taste.

The Burn
One of my favorite things about this cigar is the burn. Simply stated, it was beautiful. Solid white columns of ash approaching two inches were not uncommon. And the burn line was both thin, and for the most part straight as an arrow. It sounds funny, but I really enjoyed just holding this cigar and admiring it as it was forming it’s first ash.

La Gloria Cubana Serie R Belicoso

As I was watching it burn between puffs, I noticed something I occasionally see on some wrappers. Little sparks on the burn line. Almost like little twinkles on a diamond. I suspect it has to do with the chemical composition of the leaf, and may actually be a bad thing, but I enjoyed it.

The Flavor
The cigar opened up with a sweet, brown sugar and coffee flavor that had just a little bit of spice to it. As it progressed through the first third, the coffee became creamier and the sweetness more like caramel. There were pockets of intense flavor that reminded me a bit of the “butter nuts” in butter nut ice cream. (Minus the coldness and vanilla, of course.)

As the cigar progressed into the second third, I tasted what I think would be best described as a sweet tobacco flavor. It may sound like a bit of a cop-out description, but what I’m thinking about here is the sweet aroma you get when you open a desktop humidor that’s been left undisturbed for weeks and weeks. Very much like that.

The flavor in the final third seemed different between the two cigars I smoked. In one, it was more creamy and citrusy with leather elements. In the latter, it had more of a combination of earthiness and pear with sweet leather. The common element in the two appears to have been a great leather flavor with some hit of fruitiness.

The Price
Considering the size and quality of the smoke, in my book the $9.25 price tag is reasonable. It’s probably not a cigar that your budget smoker will light up often, but that will just make him (or her) appreciate it more when they do.

The Verdict
I thoroughly enjoyed this cigar. And I mean thoroughly. Many cigars I enjoy for the flavors, and in spite of cosmetic issues. With this cigar, I enjoyed watching it smolder almost as much as I enjoyed the flavors it presented in each puff. Though larger in ring gauge than cigars I usually smoke, it actually felt good in the hand, and the tapered end prevented discomfort in the jaw. Again, a beautiful smoke. I’d have no trouble recommending the Serie R Belicoso to anyone who’s up for a couple of hours of full-bodied pleasure.

Also, I have to say thanks again to Jim of Blue Havana II for the great smokes. If you live in the Atlanta area, swing by his shop. I’ll bet he still has a few of these in stock! And if you don’t live in Georgia, give him a call or send him an email. He has been known to ship orders to people.

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes

The Cigar In Action
Here for your viewing pleasure is the cigar in action!

My Other Reviews
If you enjoyed this review, I encourage you to visit my Cigar Review Index to check out some more of my reviews!

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El Taino Vintage Connecticut Torpedo

It’s that time again. Time again for another cigar review! And once again, I’m about to introduce you to a cigar you probably haven’t heard of before. This time around we’re taking a look at the El Taino Vintage Connecticut Torpedo, which has been generously provided for me to review by Tex Cigars.

If you haven’t heard of them, you’re not alone. Before I opened up this eagerly anticipated shipment, I hadn’t heard of them either. After some time spent scouring the internet for information on these cigars, the most I could come up with is that they are made by Nino Vasquez and come with either Brazilian or Connecticut wrappers. Now you know what I know, let’s check this mysterious new cigar out!

Cigar Stats:
Size: 6 1/2 x 52
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Nicaragua?
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Beverage: Water
Price: ~$3.60 (buy it now)

The Pre-Smoke
My first impression of the El Taino torpedo was that somebody really went all out with this cigar. Not only does it have a shiny, ornate band and a cedar tube, it has a second, equally shiny ornate band at the foot of the cedar tube. It’s clear the manufacturer wants to draw your eye, and the eyes of the people around you when you light it up. And you know what? Mission accomplished.

Before sliding off the considerable length of cedar, I tested its scent to for comparison. I’m glad I did. This was the nicest smelling cedar I’ve come across in a while. It had a sweet aroma that made me wonder if the cedar was infused with some botanicals. That really got me curious as to what I was in for. Is this an infused cigar? A sniff of the wrapper answered that question. The portion of the wrapper that wasn’t covered by cedar had a sweet almost buttery flavor, but no botanicals. The part that was under the cedar did pick up some of the sweet cedar aroma, but also had a light compost aroma.

As I do with most torpedos, I clipped the head on about a 45 degree angle (called a “Dickman cut”) to take a cold taste. Unfortunately in the cigar photographed for this review, the wrapper and binder split at the head making it very difficult to get a taste. I believe my less that razor sharp (and as always, flamboyantly-red) Xikar was to blame for this, but it’s hard to say. In previous cigars, I noted a sweet molasses flavor in the cold taste.

The Burn
Overall, the burn was pretty good with this cigar. It burned evenly and produced respectable inch and a half long ashes. And the draw was good. Surprisingly, even the cigar with the head split was very smoke-able, with only a slightly less that optimal draw. (That is until it burned down to the split, then it was nothing but that pesky oxygen with a hit of smoke.)

The Flavor
Creaminess is the name of the game with this cigar. The cigar opens up with a great creamy coffee flavor throughout the first third makes minor flavor transitions between woodiness, mild bits of spice, and a light cherry sweetness. I have to say though, that for a while in the first third, the cigar was somewhat bland.

In the second third the cigar remains pretty light and creamy, but flavors like leather, some dark chocolate and a more distinct cedar begin to appear.

In the final third the flavor became fuller in body. And I a vegetal flavor was added to the leather and dark chocolate flavors that appeared in the previous third. At times this vegetal flavor got to be a bit harsh, making me suspect there might be a slight bit of tar building up. But this harshness didn’t last, and I didn’t notice any build up.

The Price
At around $3.60 a stick, I’d say this qualifies as a budget smoke. Considering that the torpedo vitola is a more challenging shape to roll, and given the bonus aromatic cedar sleeve, I’d say you’re getting some decent value for your money.

The Verdict
I enjoyed this cigar. Even the one with the annoying split was a good smoke. The cigar is a solid, well-priced smoke with a good flavor profile. It starts a bit mild at the beginning but the flavors improve significantly during the second third. I’d say this is a great cigar to accompany your morning coffee if you’re a seasoned smoker, and probably one mild cigar smokers will find rather enjoyable.

I’d like to thank Tex Cigars again for supplying me with the cigars for this review. If you’re interested in trying one out, I encourage you to head on over to the Tex Cigar website to buy them. Jarrod is a great guy, and he’ll take good care of you!

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Likely
Recommend It: It’s definitely worth trying.

Other Reviews
If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out my Cigar Review Index.

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Dominican Trip Preview: 3 Arganese Robustos

Arganese CigarsIt’s official, I’m heading to the Dominican Republic (map) along with a small group of cigar enthusiasts, thanks to the generosity of Gene Arganese of Arganese cigars and facilitated by the finest cigar forum on the net, CigarLive. (Join up, it’s free!) So like a college student fighting through a Sunday hangover to cram for a Monday exam, I’ve been smoking every Arganese cigar I have so I can speak intelligently about them when I get there. I’m hoping three cigars will be enough, because that’s all I have! In fact the last of the three I’m blazing through right now were part of a 3 cigar sampler I picked up from the man himself at last year’s RTDA/IPCPR.

So when you think about it, I’m kind of a weasel. I haven’t actually bought an Arganese cigar (yet), and yet, I’m going to visit their facilities in an exotic locale. Well, I have an excuse. As of this time of this writing, the Arganese website indicates that their cigars are not currently available in the state of Georgia. And a quick search of several major online cigar retailers came up with no results. In short, I simply didn’t have the opportunity. And that makes sense because Arganese cigars are the new kid on the block. A fresh face trying to get some attention and some respect in a very large, thriving industry full of big family names with long histories.

I think that’s what this trip is about. It’s not about rewarding dedicated customers, it’s about making new customers and generating some word of mouth. And look, it’s working, I’m smoking their cigars and talking about them. Talk about a win-win for everyone involved!

Gene Arganese
Gene Arganese, the man with the plan at RTDA ’07

Oh yeah, one last thing. Before you pound you keyboard into pieces in a jealous rage, or hurl your wireless mouse through a nearby window, you should know that I am paying for the plane tickets. (Too late? Ah well, it was time to upgrade that old hardware anyway.)

So let’s take a quick look at the cigars. This isn’t going to be one of my standard reviews, simply because I like to smoke the same cigar several times to get a good feel for it. Instead, I’m going to write a brief summary of my experiences with the three different cigars that came in the sampler: The Connecticut Ambassador, the Cameroon Chairman and the Maduro Presidente.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 50
Wrapper: US Connecticut/Cameroon/Brazil
Binder: Dominican Republic, Indonesia
Filler: Dominican Republic
Beverage: Water, Coffee
Price: ~$6.00 (rumor has it)

The Connecticut Ambassador
This cigar was the last of the three that I smoked, and also happened to be my third place pick of the bunch. That isn’t to say it was a bad cigar. The predominant flavor I detected in it was a creamy grain flavor that kind of reminded me of beer. A hefeweizen to be exact. It also had some good sweet flavors that reminded me of syrup at some points and honey at others. As with the rest, the burn on this was without flaw, producing reasonable lengths of solid ash. If you’re a big Connecticut wrapper fan, you can’t go wrong with this one.

The Cameroon Chairman
Picking the silver medal winner of the pack was a bit difficult. I really enjoyed this cigar. Of course, it’s hard to be objective with this one, as I lit this one up upon finalizing the details of my upcoming trip. But there’s no denying that it had a great flavor profile. I got caramel, an interesting smooth citrus flavor and a semi-sweet vegetal flavor I equate with a good Cameroon wrapper. As with the Ambassador, the burn was great, and the ash was the brightest white of the bunch. The Cameroon Chairman is a cigar that’s going on my cigar shopping list. Now I just need to find a place to buy them.

The Maduro Presidente
I didn’t have to think too long about before awarding the gold to the Maduro Presidente. I enjoyed this cigar right down the nub. It’s hard to beat the smooth, rich, sweet cocoa, chocolate, coffee and finally leather flavors I got out of it. The only thing that called this champ’s ranking into question was darker colored ash. I generally prefer a light colored ash on my cigar, but this one was about the same color as the wrapper. Seemingly in a bid to make up for its less attractive ash, the Maduro Presidente held the longest ash of the bunch, weighing in at a respectable inch and a half. But substance won out over aesthetics handily here. Given to buy more of only one of these cigars, I’m buying this one.

What Other People Are Saying
There’s been a quite a few reviews of Arganese cigars around the web. Here’s the word at the virtual water cooler. (Hint: It’s all good.)

My Other Reviews
If you enjoyed this review, why not take at look at some other cigars I’ve reviewed? Check out my Cigar Review Index for a complete list.

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Ho Ho Ho, How’d It Go?

Now THAT is a Christmas Tree!It’s an anticlimactic Boxing Day here at the desk in the Manastery. (For those of you who don’t know, that’s the official, wife-recognized name of my office cum cigar lounge and library. However, she also calls one of the closets “the pantry“. Hey, You win some, you lose some.) Christmas has come an gone, and breaking with about five years of tradition, I’ve spent the day working instead of wandering the streets of a distant city looking for an exotic drink and bite to eat. Like any other day, the sun is out, a cigar is blazing and my wife keeps peeking her head in to remind me about the chores I’ve been putting off. Doesn’t sound terribly inspired does it?

I may be in a bit of a blue funk over the day after Christmas, but Christmas itself was actually a lot of fun, and pretty restful. As much as I enjoy travel, it was nice to not have to deal with airports, hotels, and over packed luggage. Though I do have to say I miss the holiday change of scenery.

My favorite part of this Christmas was my elaborate plot to sneak some presents for my wife under the Christmas tree. The execution of said plan involved pretending to be intoxicated (which wasn’t too much of a stretch with the assistance of dollar beer night at a nearby Irish pub) and playing computer games until my wife was sound asleep. Once I was convinced she was out cold, and after I got a few past an acceptable number of levels on the game, I sprung into action. I retrieved the carefully hidden gifts and the secretly stashed wrapping paper and got to work. I knew my devious designs were a complete success when angrily muttered at me for staying up so late as I hopped into bed. And the best part is she walked past the presents several times before she noticed they were there!

We also had a friend over for a late Christmas lunch, which gave us the opportunity to “entertain” as they say. The multi-course lunch and nice place settings were good fun, the highlight of the evening was several hours of competitive rounds of bowling, baseball and golf, compliments of my Nintendo Wii. As much fun as it is to play by yourself, it’s even better to go head to head with friends. (Is there a better party game than the Wii?) By the end of the evening, our friend was determined to get a Wii of his own, once they’re a easier to find.

But what my cigar smoking brethren are wondering right now is, what cigar did I smoke to celebrate the holiday? I’m not going to tell you. I’m going to show you!

Ashton VSG Enchantment
Hard to go wrong with an Ashton VSG Enchantment!

What was a surprise was how little time I actually had to enjoy a fine cigar. I didn’t get one in Christmas Eve, but I did settle down with a fine cigar once my Wii-playing buddy hit the road. And I made the most of it. If you think you see a paper clip in the picture, your eyesight isn’t failing you. I didn’t have a toothpick handy, and a paper clip affords one a nice little handle for that treacherously shrinking bundle of tobacco joy.

Though I didn’t take any notes for a proper review, I can tell you it I tasted excellent leather, caramel and toffee flavors. And as you can see, the burn was immaculate. All in all, it was a fantastic end to a very cozy Christmas. Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to smoke for New Years!

How was your Christmas? Did you enjoy a fine cigar? (Or for non smokers, a fine dessert or great beverage?)

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Los Blancos Primos Habana Criollo Rosado

Los Blancos Primos Habana Criollo RosadoIs it just me, or has time been flying by at Concorde speeds the past couple of months? Every time I turn around, it seems like another week has gone by, and the post I just wrote is now an ancient internet relic. And just now I’m realizing I almost didn’t write anything at all this week! (I also notice I seem to have had this Tuesday thing going. You probably thought I planned it that way. I’m willing to let you keep believing that.) So it’s time for a new post. And why not make it a cigar review post?

The cigars I smoked for this review I knew very little about while I was smoking them. The sum of my knowledge regarding these smokes was the “Primos” part of the name, and a sense of gratitude to Tex Cigars for sending them to me. According to some schools of thought, that may make for a more honest review. Of course, I messed all that up by doing a little research. The Primos Habana Criollo Rosado is a bundled cigar put out by Los Blancos. According to the website, the cigar is on the fuller side of medium, and full of subtle nuances that “the discerning palate will enjoy.” Discerning palate? Hey, that’s me! (Isn’t it?) But enough of what the folks in the Los Blancos marketing department think of the cigar, let’s see what I think.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 6 x 52 (toro)
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru
Smoking Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Beverage: Water
Price: ~$2.50 (buy ‘em here)

The Pre-Smoke
As you would expect from the name, the cigar does have a bit of a reddish look to the wrapper. But when I took a closer look, I noticed some interesting things. A couple of small spots with a greenish hue and the darkened imprints of the binder veins in the wrapper. On one cigar, these darkened vein-rubbings kinda looked to me like Kanji. (Which you gotta admit is kind of cool.)

And if you think I’m crazy to liken the darker spots in the cigars wrapper to Kanji, just wait until I tell you about the band. It looks to be full of Masonic symbols! (OK, I admit it, I went to see National Treasure last night, and I’m convinced that an elaborate set of obscure clues will lead me to untold riches, beginning with this cigar band.) Well, almost. Instead of a square forming a ‘V’, you have swords. And then there’s the five hands clasping together in a star shape over a scroll of paper. Hey, this can mean only one thing: Los Blancos are the super secret descendants of the Knights Templar. But before I embark on an tale of international intrigue, I better finish this review.

The scent of the wrapper was a light sweet barnyard that became richer and more chocolatey at the foot. After testing and finding the cigar to be pretty consistently firm, I clipped the cigar with my flamboyantly-red (and increasingly dull) Xikar to take a cold taste. I tasted a rich dark chocolate.

The Burn
In the three cigars I smoked for this review, I found a fairly consistent burn scenario. The cigar starts off burning even, but starts to lose the plot a bit by the latter point of the second third. Generally speaking, one side burns faster toward the end of the second third, and requires a bit of correction. But once corrected, the rest of the cigar burns a bit more evenly.

In two of the three sticks, the draw was irreproachable. As for the third, it started off tighter than I prefer, but loosened into an acceptable draw. Even at it’s tightest, it wasn’t bad enough that for a minute I considered tossing it out. It was only a slight irritation.

The Flavor
The cigars opened up with a earthy, nutty couple of puffs before becoming woodier and spicier in flavor. The spiced didn’t last long though, and shorty I was tasting toffee, caramel and sweet coffee. In one cigar, I noted that it tasted very much like brown sugar. These sweet flavors carried the cigar through the first third.

In the second third the cigar became creamier, and I detected at different intervals more brown sugar, berries, cinnamon and a sweet grain flavor that I’ve been trying to name for a while now. Having toured a brewery or two in my time, I think it reminds me of some of the grains used to make beer, because every time I taste this sweet grain flavor, I immediately think of beer. (Either that, or I need to join AA pretty soon.)

Some of the sweetness and the vegetal and grainy flavors remained in the final third. I also noted some chocolate as the body picked up a bit. But by the final third, I had the distinct impression that the show was over, and smoking the last half of the last third was like sitting in crowded parking lot after the game waiting to get out. Well, that’s probably over stating it a bit. I didn’t find the final third to be unpleasant, it was just obvious that the magic was gone.

Speaking of the body, I’d say that this cigar is pretty solidly medium in body, but I hesitate to say medium-full as shown on the official website. But of course, I’m an intentionally slow smoker. Faster smokers may find that the added speed brings the cigar into the medium-full range.

The Price
Who can complain about a two and a half buck stick? Thomas Marshal (who should be portrayed in a movie by William H. Macy), Woodrow Wilson’s Vice President famously said, “what this country needs is a good five-cent cigar.” With inflation taken into consideration, I think we have a candidate for the title here in the Primos Habana Criollo Rosado! (Did I just give away the verdict?)

The Verdict
As the saying goes, this cigar is a bargain at twice the price. It definitely exceeded my expectations of a bundled cigar, and I can see why Jarrod from Tex Cigars started carrying them. To paraphrase what he told me, he smoked one, and without even knowing what it was or who make it, he knew he had to carry it. Good call, sez I. Anyway, I owe them a big thanks for sending the cigars my way to review, and ask that if you’re interested in trying these out for yourself that you consider buying them from my friends over at Tex Cigars!

And don’t be afraid to let me know what you think of them! From time to time, readers leave mini reviews in the comments, and I welcome that!

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes

The Cigar In Action
Here like one of them new-fangled movin’ picture things is the cigar in action.

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Make The Most Of Your Holiday: Get Sick

How To Be Idle at Amazon“Michael, I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be.”

- Peter Gibbons, Office Space

I’m usually one of those annoying types that enjoys bragging about never getting sick to perpetually sniffly coworkers. As you would expect, I actually do catch a bug on rare occasions. I’m usually good for one stop-you-in-your-tracks illness a year. Invariably it happens right over the top of a major holiday. I don’t really know why, perhaps it’s the colder weather. But if I haven’t come down with something by New Year’s Day, the smart money says that I’m in the clear until Halloween.

As I write this, I’m wrapping up day six of a yet-unfinished bout with a lovely little case of bronchitis, and, added at the very last minute, special guest pink eye. So if the deep congested coughs weren’t off-putting enough, my zombie eye should do the trick. So that means this year’s ill-iday was Thanksgiving. It seems like such a waste, doesn’t it? The best food day of the year, and you’re stuck eating chicken noodle soup, crashed out on the couch watching the peerlessly poor programming that is holiday television. (Is it just me, or does TV just suck like a Dyson vacuum these days? I didn’t any loss of suction on the tube this whole week.)

But then it occurred to me that actually being sick on a holiday is the ultimate in efficiency from a work perspective. You kill two birds with one stone; a sick day and a holiday day, buy one, get one free! And you don’t get crap about being gone for being sick, because everybody else was gone for the holiday. You didn’t miss anything, and there will be no extra catch up work or email to return. And no accusations about faking it to go golfing or fishing. (Is there anything more irritating than that? It makes you want to want to sneeze on their keyboard and wipe your clammy, sickly hands on their mouse.)

But wait yet it gets better. Sometimes holiday festivities are great fun and you look forward to them. More often though, its the same drive to the same place to eat the same food and talk about the same things with the same people as you have for years. While you don’t probably loathe the experience, the thought probably crosses your time that you’d much rather play computer games in your underwear all day instead. Well, if you’re sick, you get to live that dream and with everyone’s blessing. They usual suspects don’t want to catch whatever nasty thing is causing your hacking cough and running nose. Everybody’s happy! (And you’ll probably find you cough a lot less while engrossed in a good game, than you would listening to the same family argument.) And triple word score if you get a doggie bag!

Ever notice that after a festive holiday you come back to work more worn out than when you left? You won’t have that problem if you spend 18 hours of the day in the dark green comatose land of Nyquil. In spite of the midnight coughing fits and afternoon headaches, I’ve never been more relaxed and more rested than I have been this week.

This all brings to mind a book I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) earlier this year, How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto. To sum it up in a few words, the book is advocates that everyone increase his or her indulgence in rest and relaxation, noting the decided lack of down time or personal time in modern western society. And it does this with a humorous tongue-in-cheek style. And as luck would have it, this book has a chapter on illness. In it, author Tom Hodgkinson, relates how illness gives one the opportunity to take a break, rest up and enjoy life. But as society evolves, this opportunity is being taken away by the abundance of convenient symptom-suppressing pills and the expectation that we’ll use them and get right back to work. Being sick on a holiday, however, completely removes the pressure to do anything productive. (Without digging too deep into the book, I suspect that readers of my blog will find it to be a great, entertaining read.)

I’m not naive enough to think that this book, or my mention of it will be enough to reverse the giant cogs of progress. People will get colds, they will pop some pills, and they will sniffle through their day in the office under the approving eye of management. All I’m saying is that you might consider hanging out in the doctors office the a day or two before a public holiday if you really want to have a good holiday. On second thought, just fake it, people will probably assume you are anyway!

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Tobacco World Event: Biggest Thing Since RTDA

OK, technically Saturday’s mega herf at Tobacco World in Marietta wasn’t the biggest thing since RTDA (IPCPR). Rumor has it that the Big Smoke in Vegas was bigger. But I’ve always favored the theory that if I didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. (I often wonder if people simply cease to exist when they’re not in my presence. Hey, it’s tough having delusions of grandeur. But at least it’s cozy here at the center of the universe!)

The Tobacco World Guys Running The Show!
Don’t try this at home, they’re professionals!

Mental health issues aside, the event at Tobacco World was awesome. Definitely the biggest thing I’ve been to since RTDA in Houston (pictures, write up), and likely the biggest cigar event in Georgia this year. I’m not sure if it’s a comprehensive list, but the big names I bumped include Rocky Patel, Gilberto Oliva, Nick Perdomo, Erik Espinosa (of 601), Alan Ruben (of Alec Bradley) and Al Argenti (of Cuban Imports).

The Big Boys Posing
The big boys are out in droves!

The most interesting news of the night is the apparent shake up over at Avalon Cigars. As I mentioned in a previous post, I helped Tom Ramsey set up a herf at the local Highland Cigar Company. Well, the word from this event was that Tom is no longer involved with Avalon, and a lady named Tracie Southern is now representing them in the south east. This came as a huge surprise to me, as I thought he was one of the partners in the business.


Local Cigar Reps

Kent, Alec Bradley rep; Tracie, Avalon Cigar rep; Jeff, CAO Rep

The other noteworthy news is about the swag giveaways. There were a ton of them. Swag was raffled off six pieces at a time for hours, with a humidor full of Opus X’s as a grand prize. The noteworthy part was I didn’t win a single thing! I guess my string of good lucks has finally run it’s course. But hey, the event was fun, and I did pick up bunch of great smokes, and met some new people. I definitely picked up some great fodder for some upcoming reviews too!


Rocky Patel and Cigar Rep

Does Rocky Patel ever take a bad picture?

You can check out the entire gallery of pictures from this event here.

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Casada Connecticut Toro

Casada Connecticut ToroI’ll be honest with you. I’d never heard of these cigars before my friends over at Tex Cigars sent them my way for a review. But it fits the criteria for a cigar I want to smoke and review. So let’s see how this mysterious new smoke stands up.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 6 x 50 (Toro)
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: ~$4.00 (Buy ‘em here)

The Pre-Smoke
In looking the cigar over I found it to be very light in color, easily qualifying as “colorado claro” and mostly smooth with only a few veins. One of the cigars I smoked for this review had a small imperfection around the end of the second third.

Nothing else visually stood out about this cigar, so I gave it a little squeeze to check the density. It was nice and firm with a bit of give.

I noted a light sweet hay scent on the wrapper before I clipped it with my flamboyantly-red Xikar for a cold taste. I noted a sweeter, molasses or licorice flavor.

The Burn
In my notes on this cigar, I noted that it has a beautiful ash. And that’s a little refreshing. Many of the cigars I’ve been smoking recently have had flaky, chunky looking ashes. I got about an average length of ash out of the cigar, never longer than about an inch.

The draw was good and consistent also. And the burn line was generally even, though it did stray a bit. In the final third of one cigar the wrapper did crack, but it didn’t unravel. Overall, I’d say it was a pretty good burn.

The Flavor
The cigar opened up with a nice, rich earthy flavor and took on a sweet grain flavor. (I’m thinking barley here, but I won’t swear to it.) I also noted a good deal of honey sweetness to this third.

In the second third it continued to be be very vegetal. Grain and grass became creamy, almondy, wood and leather a bit further along.

In the final third my notes on the two smokes diverge a bit. In the first it tasted woodier and spicier. In the second I got more of an herbal grain flavor, and a surprise appearance of sweet cherries. A bit later on those cherries tasted more like toffee, but it continued to be sweet.

The Price
There’s no need to drag out the price discussion. Four bucks for a cigar with good flavors and a nice burn isn’t too shabby.

The Verdict
I really enjoyed the second, sweeter one I smoked, but the first wasn’t too bad either. I’d say the Casada Connecticut merits further exploration in the future.

I’d like to thank Tex Cigars again for kindly supplying me with these smokes! If you’re interested in trying these out for yourself, consider giving them your business!

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes

What Other People Are Saying
There have been quite a few reviews of this cigar recently, and the verdicts are all over the place. Here’s a quick sample:

The Cigar In Action
Here for your viewing pleasure is Casada Connecticut Toro being transformed into an attractive pile of ash!

My Other Reviews
As always, be sure to check out my Cigar Review Index for a complete list of my reviews, both on this blog and the other sites I contribute to!

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On Boot-Licking, Name-Dropping And Success

Tom Presenting Brian Autographed Haint PosterIn a recent cigar review, a reader left a comment oozing scorn that accused me of licking the boots of cigar industry insiders and dropping names. You could just feel the pulsing, jealous ire of said reader, as he commanded me to never again review anything but average cigars that are always available, inexpensively priced and widely smoked. If he couldn’t find it or afford it, I shouldn’t smoke it and write about it.

Wow. All I can say is… Awesome! I’ve gotten the blogging world’s equivalent of hate mail! As you probably are well aware, it’s very easy to write things that people don’t care about and don’t read. It’s slightly more difficult to write things that people will read and find pretty good. But to bring somebody to a twitching, teeth-gnashing rage without discussing obvious things like politics and religion (and sometimes the Great Pumpkin), well that just takes skill! To celebrate, I’m going to light up the rarest, most expensive cigar that a person with a famous name handed to me for free. (I’m having trouble coming up with which cigar that’d be, as I don’t actually mingle all that much with people are well known. I guess that RTDA Stradivarius might do the trick. Mmmm… 34 dollar cigar I didn’t pay for…)

Seriously though, I make a point of finding cigars that are either new, or new to me and reviewing them. And when I can get my hands on a pre-release cigar, even better. One of the great things about the cigar industry is that it’s growing. In fact, I’ve heard that the cigar industry is now at around 80% of its size during the boom of 1990′s. New things are coming out all the time, and from completely new cigar manufacturers. Isn’t it useful to be able to read about these cigars before you buy them? I know I search for cigar reviews all the time before pulling the trigger on a “deal” I come across to make sure it’s actually a deal. Also, how are you going to find out about new cigars out there if nobody ever reviews anything new or unusual? Just because you can’t find a cigar right now, doesn’t mean it won’t be in every store in a month or two! And just because a cigar is out of your price range doesn’t mean it’s out of everyone’s price range. (You aren’t everyone, no matter how big your waist size gets!)

As to the name dropping aspect of the tirade, I find that even more surprising. The thing I like the most about the cigar industry (well, after the cigars, that is), is that it’s full of unpretentious, friendly, down-to-earth people, that are very accessible. I mean, how the hell else would I have met so many of them? The heads of cigar companies come to herfs and cigar promotions to meet their customers and talk about their cigars. They mingle, they shake hands, they walk, they talk, they breath… Oh my god, I think they’re people just like you and me! And they’re not behind bullet-proof glass, or surrounded by secret service! If you’re reading this, and you haven’t met a cigar “celebrity” (if that word even applies), I recommend checking out the event calendar at your local brick and mortar. (Or check out this list on Cigar Cylopedia.) They will be there, will you?

So in summary, I’ve met at least a dozen famous cigar people, including such names as Kinky Friedman, Jose Oliva, Lito Gomez, Carlos Torano and Tim Ozgener, by going to cigar events. (I’ve never yet had a cigar celeb travel anywhere just to meet me.) I have a bunch of cigars that I didn’t have to pay for, but will spend hours of my own time to smoke and document for your reference for no reimbursement whatsoever. Please leave your hate mail in the comments below.

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Nintendo Wii: Fun, But Is It Exercise?

You Sii Mii Wii!As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been visited by the eccentric Japanese guys driving the white Smart Car. They told me that they would like to play, and since they drove such a long way (across the Pacific apparently) I decided the least I could do was buy a Nintendo Wii. And play we did.

It’s a little over a week later, they’ve finished off all of my Sake and have motored down the road, leaving me alone to contemplate my Wii. So now that the rice wine buzz is gone what do I think of it? Is it worth the price? Is it fun? And more importantly, is playing with your Wii exercise? Way back in April I blogged about people using it as fitness regime!

Well the verdict is in on the fun part. It is. I love being able to play tennis at night. I love playing baseball whenever the desire strikes without having to call up my busy middle-aged friends and finding a free baseball diamond. I love playing a quick three holes of golf at lunch without having to take the afternoon off. And that’s all on the Wii Sports game the console comes with. There’s a proliferation of games designed to work with the Wii‘s revolutionary new motion-sensitive controller design.

But is the time I spend fiddling with my Wii time wasted, or does it do more than provide me entertainment when I should be working or reviewing cigars? This question is a bit more difficult to answer. A week later, I think I’ve noticed an improvement in the way my clothes fit and increased energy, but my bathroom scale tells me nothing has changed. The words of the scale might be enough information for some, but I’ve long suspected my scale of being a malicious, pathological liar. So I’ve decided to back that suspicion with a bit of science and fitness geekery: I donned a heart rate monitor.

We’re not talking about just any heart rate monitor here. This thing has been calibrated with my age, weight and gender. It can tell me exactly what my heart rate should be to achieve an optimal workout. It can tell me how may calories I burned, how long I worked out, and how long I achieved that optimal heart rate. And once it does all that, it’ll tell me what my Body Mass Index (BMI) is and how horribly overweight I am. In short, I have the technology to prove my bathroom scale a liar and justify my hours spend playing to my wife.

Here’s stats for an average session:

Playing Time: 35 minutes
Activities: Batting practice, Tennis, boxing practice
Target Heart Rate: 122 – 150 BPM

Heart Rate
Pre-Wii: 76 BPM
Average: 126 BPM
Highest: 158 BPM

Total Time in “The Zone”: 19:54
Calories Burned: 491

Wow. It’s hard to argue with the stats. With nearly 20 minutes spend in the optimal heart rate range and 491 calories burned, it’s safe to say this qualifies as exercise. And my scale is a damn liar. I happen to know that at a brisk 3.2 MPH walk on a 5% grade only burns around 300 calories.

So it’s exercise, but is it worth it? I already pay hefty HOA fees that include work out facilities. Is the additional money spent just redundant. Well, that all depends. Yes, it would appear redundant, but the truth of the matter is that I haven’t been using those facilities. (Excluding the sauna!) My wife takes great pleasure in pointing this out. (I swore I’d us them because of the convenience!) I am using the Wii. So while I’m not exactly being responsible with my money, I am getting exercise I wasn’t getting before. So I’m going to say yes, it is worth it. Especially if you pay the lower $250 price tag.

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