Hoyo La Amistad Silver

Hoyo La Amistad Silver

I reviewed the original Hoyo La Amistad (HLA) as a part of a 3 cigar review. In 2017 this new “Silver” version (HLAS) appeared so I decided to try it. The blend uses the same Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and this time binders and fillers, all Cuban seed, from the AJF farms in Esteli and Condega Nicaragua. If this is true, the HLAS blend leaves out the Ometepe and Jalapa leaf found in the HLA.

I bought the Robusto size in both cigars. As you can see from the pictures, they are a little different. At first glance the labels are pretty close, but if you look at the big picture above (the HLAS is on the left) you can see that there is a little less red, and more silver in the HLAS label. When the HLA came out in 2016 they cost between $6 and $8 per stick (single). At the moment, Cigar International is selling the HLA (box) for $3.75/stick while the HLAS (box) is $4.20, both very good prices for an AJF cigar.

The HLAS robusto has the same ring gage as the HLA (I measure it to 52). The HLA measures out to 4.75″ long while the HLAS is 5.25″. For the extra $0.45 you get a longer cigar! Like the HLA, construction on the HLAS is superb. Caps are nicely done, the wrapper is a beautiful medium brown, no veins, tight seams. The HLAS is a little more densely packed than the HLA. I have smoked a whole box of the HLA and a few of the HLAS. I have yet to have one crack, split, burn funky, or draw poorly. The draw on the HLAS is a little tighter than the HLA, but still comfortably easy. Smoke production on the HLAS is great too.

The cold smells are different. The HLA has almost no smell at all, very light (see description at link above), but the HLAS is richer, barnyard and fresh oat hay. Flavors in the smoke are not all that different. Some pepper here but not a lot, floral, nut, earth, and cedar like the HLA. There is a little more sweetness in the HLAS compared to the HLA, but all the flavors remain very light just as they did in the HLA. Flavors last a bit longer in the HLAS, down to the last inch or better. In the HLA they were gone at that point. Perhaps for this reason (and it’s a bigger cigar by a half inch) it seems stronger. The HLA ended as a medium, but the HLAS is more medium full.

For the extra $0.45 I like the HLAS better. The flavors are a little sweeter and bolder (very little but you can tell), the cigar is stronger, all in all a more enjoyable experience. Good paired with coffee and a variety of rums. I haven’t found any outstanding pairing here yet, but that will come…

Hamilton Navy Strength Rum

Hamilton Navy Strength Rum

I first encountered Hamilton rums late in 2016 when I tried the Saint Lucian 2006, an ester fueled funky rum in the Jamaican style. Since that time I’ve found and tried three others, the ’86, the Pot Still Gold, and now this latest and best of all by far the Navy Strength.

At 57% ABV this is a true “navy strength” rum. This phrase comes from the fact that at 56% and above, a gun powder wet with a little rum will still light (it doesn’t explode, but burns something like a sparkler) while below 56% it will not. Given this much alcohol (and I am assuming there is no added sugar here, an implicit promise of the Hamilton line) I expect some heat. I was not disappointed.

This from the Ministry of Rum website and here is a direct link to the page on this rum. There is a lot of information there about the history of this blend. Would love to do what Ed Hamilton does!

“60% Guyana rum at 154 proof and 40% Jamaican rum at 170 proof are blended together and slowly stirred for 48 hours before dilution to 114 proof with filtered well water at the Five & 20 Distillery in Westfield, NY. “

Color: Medium dark, copper red.
Legs: A few fast thin legs, and a lot of slow thick drops suggests a creamy experience.

Aroma: Dark fruit, prune, raisin, apricot, alcohol, molasses, oak, and burnt caramel (treacle).

Sipping: Lots of heat from the beginning to a long smooth and sweet finish. You get the dark fruit, molasses, burnt brown sugar, strong sherry notes, oak. Very creamy. I put a little water in this (1/4 t-spoon in a dram lowers the ABV from 57% to 55%, not very much) and it stands up well to it. The heat is a little reduced, bringing out coffee and chocolate notes from the rum while all the dark fruit remains. The heat is still there is a little reduced and the rum gets even creamier. The treacle turns into a less burnt brown sugar.

At around $44 this rum is on the expensive side for me, but only one of the Hamiltons I’ve tried (the ’86 at $24) is under $40 anyway. This is a superb rum. Think of Foursquare 2004 (for heat) with the rich flavors of their Port Cask, and more of them. If you like the higher ABV rums, this is one to try, the richest, thickest rum I’ve had with an ABV above the 40s. As far as I know, the Hamilton rums are available only in the U.S. Considering how many great rums we cannot get here are available to Europeans, it’s good to have a line like this on my side of the Atlantic.

Pairing with cigars? Of course! This rum works best with the less sweet cigars bringing out nutty brown sugar sweetness in the smoke. Highly recommended.

Warped Corto Cigar Review

Warped Corto Cigar Review

A box pressed robusto officially 4.5″ x 50 but measures 4.75″ x 48 (how do you measure ring on a box press anyway?). Wrapper, binder, and filler are all Nicaraguan. This more elaborate Cigar Coop review says “The Warped Corto is a Nicaraguan puro consisting of entirely of Casa Fernandez’s signature Aganorsa tobacco”. The cigar is made in the TABSA factory in Esteli, the same place as the Aganorsa Leaf TABSA I reviewed here. That was a $6 (retail) cigar and I wasn’t impressed. This one is much better!

Normally about $9 this cigar is outside my budget range but my friend George of Rodrigo Cigars came up with a discount a few months ago (what you are not on his mailing list yet?) that brought the price down to $6. There’s been a lot of very positive talk about this cigar on social media, actual smokers not marketing suits, so I took a chance on a box. This is one of those “glad I did” experiences.

I’ve smoked a half dozen of these now. Cold smell is very light, almost nothing there, but what there is speaks of sweet flowers, maybe even strawberry. Very strange. Never got that from a wrapper before. Construction is excellent. Wrapper a medium brown sometimes getting a bit dark going down the leaf, few little veins, almost invisible seams. Very smooth wrapping. With a straight cut I much prefer on box pressed sticks, the draw of every cigar has been perfect for me; easy, but not too easy, and best of all it stays that way throughout the smoke. This cigar is packed perfectly with no tendency to clog up behind the lit coal. Smoke output is great throughout, one of the creamiest sweet smokes I’ve ever had. The burn line on all these sticks stayed pretty straight. Not perfect, but close enough. All of these cigars remained flavorful down to the last half inch.

Flavors here were rich and sweet. The stick begins with a little pepper, nut, sweet wood and light tobacco. A half inch in something like cinnamon sugar appears, and something sweet and floral reminding me of honeysuckle. Midway a transition to leather, more sweet flowers, something like wintergreen, fresh hay and more brown sugar. A little later something fruity like the strawberry I smelled on the wrapper. In the last third the pepper comes up, there are more mints and the brown sugar becomes a little burnt like a caramel. The retrohale is still filled with sweetness. The transitions here are notable and the sweetness never leaves the smoke. Strength starts out to the medium side and progresses to the full side of medium-full throughout the smoke.

So are these cigars worth $9 retail? I can only compare these to other cigars from My Father, Drew Estate, Arturo Fuente, LADC, LEAF by Oscar, and others selling at this price, and yes the Warped Corto are as good as those other excellent cigars. You can see this particularly in the construction, the well done wrapper, perfect pack and draw, clean burn, smoke output, and so on. The other “sign of a good cigar” like those of other manufacturers mentioned, is that the blend stays flavorful down below the 3/4 inch line. While beyond my budget at retail I will grab another box of these if a deal comes along. If you love Aganorsa and haven’t tried these, this is a really good one and you should grab a few where ever you find them.

I’ve paired these with coffee and various rums. The less sweet rums work better letting the cigar’s sweetness come through. Coffee brings out roasted nuts. A great cigar, highly recommended!