I should really call this "My Past 2 Weeks in Review" as I haven't posted since 1/7. With the winter weather in full bloom here in NJ (and a foot of snow expected today), smoking has taken a backseat. I'll post this as it makes sense to highlight cigars I think need some highlighting. It will be sporadic, but it is what it is. The real reviewers on Cigar Federation will keep you in the loop to give you your review fix. With that out of the way, let's go through what I've enjoyed over the past couple of weeks.
Felix Assouline Limited Reserve Something Special Sublime - Like the other Felix Assouline cigars I've had, this has a Habano Criollo 98 wrapper with Indonesian wrapper and Nicaraguan and Honduran wrappers. I'm not in love with the branding on this one - "Something Special" just seems like a bad name for a cigar and I didn't even know it was called "Limited Reserve" until I read the marketing information as I don't see this indicated on the band. Not my choice, but I would have much preferred it just be called "Limited Reserve". Pre-light draw is heavy on the cedar - very heavy. Upon lighting, I'm hit with a bit of harshness that I don't find overly alluring - not a spice, but just an overall harshness. The woodsy/cedar flavor is there with a leathery aspect. The aroma at this point is that of burnt paper - in fact, a guy in the shop actually questioned what I was smoking and said it smelled like a "blunt". Not sure what he was referring to exactly. After about an inch, the smoke improves dramatically. The harshness disappears as the woodsy/cedar flavors take center stage with a bit of baking spice. Draw is excellent on this (as it has been on all Felix Assouline cigars thus far), but burn is a bit wonky - nothing that requires fixing or ruins the experience, but something to note. As the second third progresses and moves to the final third, a sweet spice is taking over. As we near the end, the cigar is hitting on all cylinders - the cedar is picking up, the sweet spice is still there especially on the retrohale. One inch in and I thought I'd hate this cigar, but the end of it was very enjoyable. I'm going to sit on one and see if it changes over time.
Felix Assouline Ringo Colt - The fourth and final blend I'm trying from Felix Assouline is perhaps the one I'm most excited for - for no other reason that the 6.5 x 38 Colt vitola is a gorgeous box-pressed petit lancero cigar and right up my alley. Like all the Felix Assouline blends, the Ringo has a Habano Criollo 98 wrapper with an Indonesian binder and Nicaraguan and Honduran filler. The wrapper looks much like the other cigars, but has a few more noticeable seams as I imagine rolling a box-pressed lancero provides a bit more trouble than some of the other vitolas I've had from Felix Assouline. Marketed as a "call to our Western heritage", the branding is pretty cool with a old-time Western theme and 4 Aces on the band. Cedar is again prevalent on the pre-light draw, but not nearly as much as the Something Special. Initial draws off the light smoke very similarly to the Something Special. Draw is a bit tighter than the other examples I've smoked and I've had to relight a few times already as I make it to the midway point. Unlike the Something Special, the flavor profile isn't really changing much, but maybe I attribute that to the slight burn issues. A decent smoke, and I might be deflated because I was looking forward to this one the most, but probably my least favorite of the 4. I find that the majority of the time I hype something up in my head, it ends up disappointing me - I really have to try to refrain from that going forward.
Tristan Reserva Limitada Connecticut Grand Perfecto - The fourth in my Tristan experiment - this time the Connecticut. This cigar is a Nicaraguan cigar with an almost translucent Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan and Dominican binder. Prelight draw is extremely sweet and tastes delicious. I hope this keeps up once I light it. Once I light, the sweetness is very subtle. The dominant flavors are tobacco with a subtly sweet spice on the retrohale. While the flavors remain very consistent throughout, the burn and draw are perfect. I'm not a huge fan of Connecticuts to begin with as they rarely provide me the flavor I desire in their classic form, and this holds true for the Tristan. A fine smoke for what it is, but just doesn't hit the mark for me.
La Palina Maduro 40 - I don't have a lot of experience with La Palina - I've smoked a couple that I've come across, but never really went out of my way for them. Then, I smoked the MrSam which ended up making my Top Cigars of 2013. Still, with no easy access to the brand, I put it in the back of my head and moved on. Fast forward to about a month ago, and Andrew, Sales Director for La Palina, was in the shop and handed me a La Palina. I enjoyed it so much, I've gone out of my way to track more down. That cigar was the La Palina Maduro 40, and now that my shop got it in stock, I decided to do a short review. The La Palina Maduro has a dark, rustic-looking Mexican Maduro wrapper glistening with oils and a double Honduran binder along with Nicaraguan corojo and criollo filler. The 40 is the latest release in the line - a 6x40 petit lancero - that fits right in my wheelhouse. I clip the cap and the nose gives a strong smell of cedar with some leather. The pre-light draw is the same. As I light up, I get some really unique flavors off the draw - I've heard people refer to this as a metallic flavor, but I attribute it to a baking spice. After an inch or so, a sweetness takes over and is accentuated by the cedar and leather I got off the pre-light along with some spice. The sweetness is my favorite part of this cigar as it is constant throughout the rest of the smoke as cedar, leather, coffee, and spice all play parts in layering your palate. The draw, while a bit tight, and the burn are perfect on this - something of note for a Lancero. This is a definite box buy for me - something VERY few cigars are for me - and another reason why La Palina is quickly becoming one of my favorite brands.
Hermosa Cigars Toro - Received this in a weasel warhead from HardlyClerkin a month or so ago - I've already smoked one, but I wanted to wait until the 2nd experience to share my thoughts. The wrapper is a creamy tan with some visible veins. As I cut off the cap and prepare for some pre-light draws, I notice that the cap seems very mushy, but the rest of the cigar is pretty uniformed. The pre-light draw gives some sweet cedar that I find very enjoyable. As I light, I'm immediately surprised by the amount of pepper spice that I'm getting - I definitely didn't expect that. I get some of the cedar and sweetness in flavor, along with some nuttiness, but the spice is a bit overpowering and is really surprising me. The head of the cigar in my mouth is really mushy - I even referred to it as "like chewing a big wad of bubble gum" - but it isn't impacting the smoke and the draw and construction are perfectly fine. As I move into the middle of the cigar, the spice moves to the background and some other flavors come to the forefront including a floral flavor with a really creamy smoke. I find these flavors, along with a "butteriness" to continue throughout the smoke. Pretty enjoyable smoke and better than I expected, and I was definitely surprised with the spice that kicked it off. Not running out to grab more, but I'll definitely smoke again and keep some on hand.
Arandoza White Label Robusto - Someone - I think Dustin (though it might have been Logan) - sent me this after it debuted at IPCPR and told me I'd enjoy it. I've had it at the top of my humi forever, but finally picked it up today. The wrapper is a bit beat up looking brown, but the banding is a pretty slick looking white with gold embossing. I clip off the cap for some pre-light draw action and my lips are met with some chocolate and intense spice. The spice is so intense that my tongue actually starts to tingle. As I light this up, the draw is perfect. I'm met with continued intense spice - white pepper with some heat - along with a bit of wood and earth. As I enter the middle, the spice tones down, but the flavors remain and even intensify. The spice picks up again in the end and dominates the flavor, but not nearly as much as the start. I had limited expectations heading in as I haven't heard a lot about this cigar, but I actually enjoyed it. The spice is very powerful, but I got some nice flavors as the smoke progressed. I'd definitely smoke this again and keep a few on hand for a spicy snack.
Another great list of cigars and some that I think you should go out of your way to try! Have you had any of these yet? Were your experiences similar or different? I always love to hear, so let me know. Thanks for reading! Goodbye for now!