Sunday, March 6, 2011

American Apparel is so innovative!

If I weren't a fan of American Apparel clothing already this would have done it,......

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Para Ti Prominentes by Fred Schrader

Para Ti Prominentes by Fred Schrader

Origin : Dominican Republic
Format : Toro Gordo
Size : 6 x 60
Wrapper : Dominican
Filler : Dominican
Binder : Dominican
Price : $8.75

I was first introduced to these awhile back when Pete Johnson announced he would be helping a “wine friend” out by distributing a new cigar through his company Havana Cellars. His wine friend happened to be the iconic Fred Schrader of Schrader Cellars. Fred is one of the most popular people in the wine world now due to his historic showing in 2007 with multiple 100 point rated cabernets (an unheard of accomplishment!). Schrader recently introduced the Para Ti line of cigars and his limited edition release Schrader Hispaniola “Sparky” figurado. I had some of prominentes on stock in my humidor and decided that it would be worth reviewing here.

Appearance : ★★★☆☆
A light brown wrapper with one large vein traversing 2/3rd of the cigar and some other medium sized veins covers this cigar. Pretty rough looking on the outside, very bumpy, and has some blotchiness to the wrapper. Contains some minor soft spots along its length, but smells of rich tobacco, cedar, nuts and earth akin to Cuban cigars.

Construction : ★★★½☆
The prominentes has the slightest bit of tightness on the dry draw and after the cut. On the burn, the cigar had a flaky ash that had trouble staying on the cigar for more than an inch. Lots of fly aways happened with our slight Texas breeze. Any burn problems were corrected usually except for some canoeing at the last 3rd that needed a touch up. It emits lots of creamy smoke with each draw pretty effortlessly.

Flavor : ★★★☆☆
Upon first light, cedar, nuts, and rich coffee bean flavors and aromas are apparent. Some underlying earthy/grassy flavors through much of the 1st third reminds me of Cuban Romeo and Julietas. On the retrohale you find the most discernible trait/flavor of the Para Ti line, butterscotch! Dried nuts and coffee flavors dominate the transition from the 1st third to the 2nd third of the stick. The Para Ti coasts into a long period of nutty and grassy notes all the way into the last third of the cigar, and that’s where the problems started. The flavors immediately died out in the last third, just becoming bitter with hardly a recognition of any kind of flavor, and not leaving me with anything to write about. The cigar was smooth and medium bodied through much of its course, but I have a hard time liking the last part of it.

Value : ★★★☆☆
A huge cigar for $8.75, makes it a decent buy. The flavors don’t live up to the price tag. Can’t really say it is worth the money. The canonazo 6”x48 is much more worthy of the money, and much more delicious (loads of butterscotch!). I would recommend it before buying any other size of this line.

Overall Rating : ★★½☆☆
The price and the lack of great flavors makes this cigar a “no go” in my book. I’m not knocking on the rest of the line, which I really liked, but this certain vitola doesn’t do the Para Ti brand any justice. If you like more spice and better flavor go with the canonazo. This may a perfect example that smaller vitolas may just be plain better. There is an apparent trend in producing large ring gauges, but I don’t think this one will be fueling that trend. The only large ring gauges that have surprised me are the Jaime Garcia toro gordo and the Liga Privada T-52 flying pig. If this rating was based on the canonazo it would get many more stars.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

EO Brands Cubao No.5

Cubao No. 5 Toro by EO Brands

Cubao No.5 Toro (6.1x50)
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Price: $4.00

This is a Pepin Garcia produced cigar for Espinoza y Ortega brand (EO Brands). EO also owns the 601 Series and Mi Barrio line of cigars, both very good lines of cigars. They seem to be hitting homeruns lately with their cigars while partnered with the legend Don Pepin.

The cigar has a fragrant prelight smell to the cigar that is earth, rich leather, dark wood , and honeyed. Tight draw on the initial pre light draw. This stick was pulled out of the humidor a little above 70% humidity.

At first light, I am hit with loads of pepper and wood flavors. It’s a little harsh at first, but mellowed about ½ inch in. A tight dark grey ash developed. Toasted coconut and woodsy flavors were the norm though the 1st third. The 2nd third, the draw opened up a bit and creamy smoke continued to have toasty oak flavors with a touch of sweetness. Halfway through the cigar went out due to a soft spot. Last third had some pepper in the background and a touch of charred wood.
The power throughout the cigar lets me know that this cigar needs to age a little bit. I’ve heard they become much better after about a year in the humidor. I got several more of these and will let them rest for awhile and return to them at another time.

Score: 91

Friday, February 11, 2011

La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial #55 by Ashton

La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial #55 by Ashton

La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial #55 (5.75x55)
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sun Grown
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Price: $7.50-$8.00

A tribute to great Cuban cigars; this cigar is down right beautiful to look at. Its light brown wrapper from Ecuador is almost flawless with hardly any prominent veins. Great aroma of cedar on the pre light sniff.

Used a table light to light, and didn’t even have to puff on it to light. Combustion was superb and burned evenly from the start (a consistent trait of Ashton products). The draw was very easy, almost too easy to pull.

Flavors of wood and nuttiness on the initial attack. No Pepin spice at all, which is surprising for a mostly Nicaraguan smoke. Salt and pepper ash is flaky and falls of easily (in my lap!). Plumes of smoke pour out of this stick, and I love it. 2nd third is very nutty and transitions to cedar flavors. Not wowing me so far, and not bringing the complexity I thought this stick would have. In the last third the cigar the Pepin spice (black pepper) finally made an appearance but just slightly. At the nub a hint of cocoa was noticed.

All in all this smoke is just good and not anywhere near great. Probably won’t return to this one. Flavors just seem kind of dull and not “spot on” like many other Pepin cigars. This would otherwise be liked by many mild to medium strength smokers. Probably would be great in the morning with some coffee to start off the day.

Score: 89-90

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ashton VSG Robusto

Ashton VSG Robusto

Ashton VSG Robusto (5.5x50)
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sun Grown
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Price: $9.50-$10.50

A dark robust looking cigar at first take. The aged wrapper is akin to other cigar wrappers like the ones used to wrap Tatuaje Reservas. Blended by Carlos Fuente Jr., this cigar has excellent pedigree. I have smoked the VSG torpedo years ago and it was one of the first cigars to make me say “Wow!” I just happened upon this one in the local Spec’s Liquor store and decided to pick it up.

At the start, the cigar was a little hard to light. Once lit the cigar had some spiciness to it with a good dry draw. The cigar transitioned immediately away from the spice and new puffs brought creamy coffee notes, and good earthy flavors. Produced a nice tight, white ash. About an inch to an inch ½ in the cigar was singing with great cocoa and coffee bean notes and then the problems began. This stick started to canoe on me and had multiple burn problems. It seemed as if the cigar only wanted to burn on one side and then kept going out. This stick was pulled from the humidor at around 72-73% humidity which may have been the problem. This particular cigar needs to be at around 65% humidity I believe to burn right.

After half way through, I touched up the cigar and got it to burn evenly finally. The coffee and cocoa flavors still coming through. The nicotine is starting to hit me now and the body of the cigar went from medium to >medium. The last third of the cigar had an elevation in spiciness return followed by a leather component. Able to smoke to nub without it getting too hot. Overall a good robust cigar with big flavor. Construction is good, but the humidity has to be right for this one to be enjoyable. I like the VSG torpedo much better though. This one can be paired with aged rums and scotches and still be able to hold up.

Score: 90

Padilla Habano Torpedo

Padilla Habano Torpedo

Padilla Habano Torpedo (6x52)
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Price: $7.50

Ernesto Padilla has really come into his own since parting ways with Don Pepin Garcia. He now uses the Tabacalera Fernandez factory to produce his smokes in Esteli, Nicaragua. It seems nothing has changed since the parting though construction wise, each cigar is impeccably flawless. Padilla has a real eye for quality control.

The Padilla Habano torpedo is a medium brown cigar with a flawless wrapper that has no signs of large veins. The wrapper is smooth as silk and oily to the touch. Smells of earth and leather. Upon cutting the cigar, the draw was tight. I smoked two of these and only one of these seemed to have this tightness, and the other had a semi-tight draw.

Once lit, the cigar had rich leather and cedar flavors, and the aroma was very earthy. In this particular case I loved the cedar flavor, because it was a little sweet (I usually don’t like cedar). A very nice tight grey ash developed and clinged on the cigar for up to 2 inches before falling off. The Padilla had a lot of earthy flavors that I find in Cuban cigars, and this seems to mock a Cuban more closely than any other cigar I have had in awhile. 2 inches in and coffee flavors start to come out. At the 2nd third mark, leather and earth are followed by this diminishing coffee flavor that started to taste reminiscent of milk chocolate. At the last 3rd, the tightness has gotten to the point where the cigar almost wants to go out. The burn has been even throughout with no touch ups needed. Medium bodied throughout. Nubbed it without any difficulties.

I really liked this cigar and I even ended up smoking several over my birthday weekend. The cigars flavors are just so enjoyable that the draw problems were easily over looked. I believe Ernesto Padilla may be the most talented cigar blender these days, because his entire line up of cigars are phenomenal.

Score: 92

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Paul Garmirian Symphony 20

Paul Garmirian Symphony 20 Limited Edition

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Paul Garmirian Symphony 20 (6x52)
Wrapper: Dominican?
Binder: Habano Seed
Filler: Four different leaves (Unknown Origin)
Price: $16-$17

Walked into Hubbard State Cigar Shop in downtown Chicago and asked for their best cigar. The cigar I was pointed to by the manager of the shop was the Paul Garmirian Symphony 20. Unfortunately not a lot is known about the makeup of this cigar; it seems to be some kind of inside secret between the brains of Paul Garmirian, Henky Kelner, and Eladio Diaz. I looked at the manager with bewilderment as I handed over $16, and immediately thought to myself that if this cigar wasn’t good I would be paying this manager another visit!

Nevertheless, the cigar is beautiful and flawless. A heavy cigar in the hand with a solid feel and wrapped by a gorgeous oily wrapper. It’s really a beauty of a cigar to behold. The band looks like shit though, but I think Paul is all about substance and less about the frills. I didn’t get to smoke it until my birthday back in Texas though. I handed my buddy a Padilla Series ’68 and headed outside with him and lit up.

On the initial draws the cigar gives off a rich concoction of leather backed with spiciness. The spiciness is not bold like in Nicaraguan tobacco but subtle red pepper spice that hits the sides and clings to the back of the throat. This was very interesting flavor. The 2nd third keeps bringing rich leather, nuts, and earth. The cigar has a good draw with a bit of tightness which I like. Last 3rd continued the previous flavors with a hint of sweetness, but I had to stop smoking the cigar at the point where it hit the band. The spiciness that I had been underlying the entire time should have been a hint to the full on smash of nicotine I was feeling. My head was swimming and I started feeling like a guppy in a fishbowl.

This is a seriously strong cigar, full bodied, but is very good. A world away from what I usually smoke, but nonetheless is an excellent cigar to smoke. Only 40,000 made, after they are gone they are gone for good.

Score: 93-94