Let’s be fair, who doesn’t like a bargain? Nowadays life is quite a lot easier for the bargain hunter in all of us: the web is a source of much (sometimes too much) information and we can compare prices for many products in seconds and look up opinions in just a tad longer tan that. When it comes to cigars it is undeniable that many of us look for special offers, deals and new releases with almost religious attention.
On top of that we have the suave marketing sirens telling us about how we can save even more by going for the gimmicky copy instead of the original: marketing for products like Nica Libre (vs. Padron) and the like is a classic example for this. On the Cuban cigar market this is less common. The Diplomaticos brand might have been originally seen as a cheaper alternative to Montecristo but it soon carved out a space of its own, now rapidly decreasing thanks to Habanos discontinuations. But every now and then you hear opinions and rumours of this kind. One I found out while writing my Cohiba Panetela review was that there seem to be a few BOTLs out there that considered the Por Larrañaga Panetela as a cheaper, but equally pleasurable version of the Cohibas. Since The PL Panetelas are cheapish short filler smokes I was a bit doubtful but it is always worth a try, right? Continue reading
Lately I find myself more and more in Scandinavia for work. Although there is a part of me that wishes I could visit Switzerland, and its cigar stores, instead – I have to admit that I enjoy working there. Once you figure out how people tick you cannot fail to appreciate the no bullshit, honest, direct but still friendly way people behave there. And from a cigar point of view, things aren’t great but not even that bad. Many hotels still offer smoking rooms and Gothenburg and Stockholm have some nice cigar stores.
A while back I was visiting one of them (Brobergs in Gothenburg) and my eyes landed on the Punch Northern Lights, the 2009 Regional Edition exclusive to the Nordic Countries… would you have resisted?
I didn’t think so.
Limited Edition cigars are one of those topics that split cigar lovers. For many they are overpriced marketing gimmick cigars, that are not worth their price or reputation. According to one story i have heard, the first RE were release because of an over-supply in substandard wrapper needed to be used for something. I have no idea if this is true. On the other hands, the collector love them and some people will hunt for all the RE released each year just to have a complete collection. And then there are the inbetweeners, who are unhappy about the price and limited availability, but still curious to see how these REs fare compared to normal lines, which is where I firmly pur myself. The Northern Lights are the first RE from Habanos I try and I am definitely looking forward to see how they fare. Continue reading
It’s winter, it is cold and it snows, plus guess what… unlike some lucky bastards out there, you can’t smoke inside the comfort of your own home, so what do you do? You look for nice short smokes. There are plenty of machine-made cigarillos to choose from out there, but what I am interested in are handrolled cigars so that’s what I stick to. Unfortunately short smokes are not that popular today: trying to find a cigar that smokes in 20-30 minutes can be a challenge. And even if Habanos is trimming shorter and thinner cigars more and more away from its production, there still are nice smokes on their catalogue if you are looking for a quick cigar, and none more so than the Cohiba Panetela.
We probably all know the history of Cohiba: about its birth in 1966, the initial years as the private brand for Castro and his high ranking official and how it was used as gift for foreign diplomats. It was 1982 when it finally was released to the general public. As a brand this has certainly come a long way from being a limited and exclusive production and probably no other cigar today says Cuba like a Cohiba. Likewise the range has grown a lot with the Siglo line introduced in 1994 and the Maduro line in 2007, plus the various special releases. Still, at the very start of the story there were just three cigars: the Lancero, the corona Especiale and the Panetela. Continue reading
For the second installment of my Aging Project I am looking at a mild Cuban smoke, the Fonseca KDT Cadetes. In general the predominant wisdom on cigars is that medium and full-bodied cigars age while mild ones simply tend to go flat. Yet, as I mentioned in the Por Larrañaga post, for certain mild Cubans you find that experts suggest a few years of aging to bring out their full potential. The Fonseca KDT Cadetes fit the profile of a mild cigar nicely and at the same time I must admit I am slightly cheating here: I have had a few of these with 3-4 years on them and they can be very nice cigars, dominated by nutty notes, cocoa, a little spice and mild honey sweetness. The box I will be following while it ages is from November ’08, so younger than the KDTs I’ve had in the past. It will be interesting to see how these yonger cigars measure up.
The other reason for choosing these is more personal. Personally, I think Fonseca is a much overlooked Cuban brand. The reason for this is probably a combination of many seeing this as a beginner’s brand and the fact that, unlike most other Cuban brands, the Fonseca cigars play more around mellow flavours instead of showing the powerful profile most people identify Cuban smokes with. While these certainly make good beginner’s cigars, in the best cases they are very nice light refined smokes and not expensive either. In my experience the No.1, a Lonsdale, is probably the best expression of what Fonseca cigars can deliver while the Cadetes are a simpler smoke, but still not without complexity. Too bad Habanos has discontinued the Fonseca Invictos in 2002, a perfecto looking like an inverted torpedo (for a picture see Trevor’s Cuban Cigar site), which from what I have read not only had a cool looking shape but also was one of the best Fonseca Vitolas: I would have loved to try one of these.
Last year I heard a lot of good stuff about the Por Larrañaga Petit Coronas; a great mild smoke, one of Cuba’s best cheap smokes…etc. I had never really heard much about this brand apart the name, but it sounded tempting. I almost went for a box, but since these only come in cabs of 50 I really wanted to try a few, so I grabbed a couple on-line and smoked them about a month apart from each other. I will spoil the review for you probably, but at this moment it is enough to say that while one definitely made me want to go for a whole cab, the other had serious issues with staying alight… and it made me think of the consistency of Cuban cigars.
You probably are thinking… just get on with it, we have heard it all before.. yadda, yadda, yad. Maybe… but while a lot of people see things only in black and white I tend to steer away from extreme statements. Cigar Inspector ran two interesting polls a few months back on cigar construction and taste. In both, about 50% of the people answered that a) non Cubans are constructed better but b) Cubans taste better. In principle I agree with that, but it is a simplistic view ( that is the limit of polls – still no quarrel with Cigar Inspector for running them). I see things in a slightly more complex way. Continue reading
Saturday I was in Glasgow’s city center for some shopping and walking past my local tobacconist I decided to go in and see if they had anything new or tempting. I didn’t find any cigar that really caught my imagination (it is a really small store) but I saw they had a copy of the European Cigar Cult Journal which I grabbed straightaway. Later I noticed it was not the latest issue (I got no.3 of 2009) but I had been looking for this for a while to see if it is any better than a certain lifestyle magazine dressed as cigar lovers read of choice, so I didn’t mind. Although it does have a slight Teutonic feel to it (it is after all a German-English bilingual magazine) it certainly concentrates a lot more on cigars and I am seriously thinking of subscribing.
I was ever so slightly shocked by some of the reviews though. The main cigar feature of the issue is a nice look at everyday smokes, with 9 pages of reviews, both Cuban and non (of which there seems to be a much better choice in Germany and Austria then we do in the UK). Some of the cigars in there are frankly too expensive to be in my list of everyday smokes, but I guess that prise is subjective depending on the size of your wallet. What left me with my jaw dropping and head shaking was the review of the infamous Montecristo Open Junior.Not only ECCJ rated it higher than things like the Monte no.4, Partagas Mille Fleurs, Camacho Corojo and more, but thet rated it as high as the Partagas Serie D No.4. Seriously, one of the most vilified cuban to come out of the Habanos range is as good as one of the most loved Cuban Robustos? If you, as one of my mates, don’t believe me, look below (click to enlarge).
This is the first post of a recurring feature I am introducing on the blog looking at the evolution of cigars through aging. There is a wide held belief that cigars, especially Cubans, improve with age, so from now on I will document how my cigar boxes change in time. Once I receive the cigars and these have had a month or so to rest. It will be interesting to see if the “myths” of cigar aging hold true. Will Cubans really age better than Non Cubans? Do Cubans really need two years from production to have a steady burn? Are full-bodied cigars better than milder ones for keeping? It will be interesting to see although it will certainly take some time. Once I receive the cigar boxes I plan to let these rest for a month or so before trying them; after that I will re-visit each box every six months smoking a couple of cigars and post on how these are evolving.
To start things off I am looking at the Punch Petit Punch form Habanos. Punch is one of the oldest Cuban brands, established in 1840 and originally targeted mainly at the British market; the Petit Punch (a Perla according to Habanos Vitolaro) has been part of Punch’s range from the pre-revolutionary times, but has been discontinued in 2009 by Habanos as they trim away many of the thinner cigars in their different brands. (While it is understandable that this is happening because thinner cigars are out of fashion and don’t sell, I am sorry to see these go and completely agree with The Smoking Stogie’s passionate rant in defense of smaller ring gauge cigars.) The box I have is from November 2007, so already pass the 2 year mark, and has been in my humidor for a little over two months now. Continue reading