Review: The T by Three Masters of the Cigar Blending Art

Review: The T by Three Masters of the Cigar Blending Art

Robert Caldwell, A. J. Fernandez, Matt Booth: Three well recognized names in our favorite industry. This is their second release together, this one produced at the Fernandez factory in Nicaragua. The cigar was to be named “The Truth” but Tatuaje seems to own that name. Really? You can own the word “Truth”?

I’ve been over a half dozen other reviews of this stick and the principals are not revealing much about the blend except that it is Nicaraguan puro.

Wrapper: Ecuador Habano (grown in Nicaragua)
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

There are five different vitolas, all box pressed. The one I’m smoking is the Lonsdale, 6.5″ x 44.

Cold Aroma: Black tea, manure, barnyard are the aromas I get, especially the tea. Some other reviews have been all over the place with this.

Pre-light construction: Dark brown wrapper, slightly toothy. No veins, almost invisible seams. Box pressed, firm, no soft or hard spots. Looks fabulous.
Draw: Just about a perfect medium here that stays consistent throughout the smoke.

I have seen this cigar reviewed everywhere and everyone loves it. Alas is too expensive for me usually $12/stick at the box level. So when Cigars & Pipes recently had a fire sale and I saw these for $8.50/stick (still a full $2 above my present budget cap) I had to grab a box. Might be the only box I ever have, but I am glad I went for it.

When you light this up you get a little pepper that rapidly dials back and stays in the background. I get sweet wood, nuts, coffee, and lots of leather in the flavors, even sometimes a hint of fruit in the retrohale! Smoke output is great, and the cigar wants to smoke slowly. What strikes me most though is the cigar’s smoothness. All the flavors come out as a marvelous sweet meld. I cannot think of its like in any other cigar except maybe the 1924 Anniversary Padron, a cigar I have not smoked now in a few years as their price just went too high. Back to the T, as the cigar smokes down it gets a little less sweet while pepper and barn yard flavors come forward. The burn line stays straight throughout. This is a very well constructed cigar!

Flavors here are so well blended that none of them come out and really strike you, instead shifting back and forth with every puff. And this is a kick ass cigar, very full strength, or perhaps it is just the length of the stick. I’ve been through four of them now. The first two made me dizzy. I tried to let one go at the 3″ mark and come back to it, but even after a few hours when I pick it up the pepper comes way up and the other flavors have disappeared. I have to smoke this stick very slowly. Total smoke time ends up being about 90 minutes!

The ash does not hold very long, dropping at about 1/2″ but that might have something to do with how slowly I am able to smoke it. This is truly a cigar to savor. The subtle flavors here seem to go best with a subtle rum. The 40% ABV Real McCoy pictured is perfect. I reviewed this rum’s stronger brother a while back before I tasted this version. Turns out they are exactly the same rum (I believe) with this one watered down to the 40% level while the more limited edition version stands at 47%.

Over all, a great stick from three great masters of the cigar blending art. Given today’s cigar prices these are worth their $12/stick sticker even if I can’t afford them. If you find them at any price substantially under that, don’t miss out!

Cigar Review: Room 101 Serie HN Papi Chulo

Cigar Review: Room 101 Serie HN Papi Chulo

Released in June 2013, this must be one of the Room 101 sticks prior to Matt Booth retiring from the business. I gather he is back now, but will not be re-releasing old blends. So this is one of those rare deals (the only kind I can afford these days). Famous Smoke dumping odds and ends for steeply discounted prices. This 50 count box came out to $3/stick including shipping! The cigar is a cousin of the Namakubi and Daruma also released in limited numbers with a Papi Chulo vitola. I think this is a less “dry chocolate” (Namakubi) and “vegetal wood” (Daruma) and more light brown sugar sweetness. In any case all three are delicious and I am happy to have this deal. Let’s get to the cigar.

Wrapper: Honduran Criollo 98
Binder: Brazillian Mata Fina
Filler: Honduran Criollo Ligero and Dominican Navarette

Vitola: 4″ x 42 “Papi Chulo”

Open the box and what hits you is strongly aromatic black tea along with barnyard, manure, and leather. Wrapper color is medium brown, the pack is even all the way around and medium. The stick is not as firmly packed and dense as the Namakubi. The wrapper has a few fine veins, but everything looks very well made. I did a straight cut, draw is superb for me (I like it on the light side) and stays that way throughout the smoke.

Burn line stays pretty straight. I made minor corrections on one of three sticks I’ve smoked so far. The other two required none. Smoke output is very good, and stays steady throughout the smoke. Smoke time for me about 50 minutes. These smoke a bit faster than the Namakubi or Daruma which are more densely packed.

Flavors: Light on pepper until the final inch when it comes up considerably. Much of it is a charred sweet woodiness or toast and nuttiness combined with leather, brown sugar, and warm baking spices. I didn’t notice a lot of transition. Various flavors came up and dialed back, but all stayed present until the very end when pepper dominated. This is one hell of a great cigar! Buy them if you see them! Another review linked HERE is from Halfwheel.

Strength: A solid medium all the way along

I’ve paired this smoke with coffee (great) and two rums, both having an effect on the cigar. A sweet rum brought out some coffee flavor, and the less sweet rum emphasized the brown sugar notes of the cigar.

Cigar Review: Warped Lirio Rojo Corona

Cigar Review: Warped Lirio Rojo Corona

This unbanded beauty is a puro in two ways… The wrapper, binder, and filler are all Nicaraguan, and they are also all Aganorsa tobacco. Lirio Rojo means “red lilly” and apparently only 2000 were made in 2015. How did I manage to get 3 5 packs in 2017 then? Not sure, but I believe there were other production runs in later years.

Binder/wrapper/filler: Nicaraguan Aganorsa
Size: All reviews say 5.5″ x 44 but I measure it out at 5.75″ x 46.
Rolled at the TABSA factory (Tabacos Valle de jalapa S.A.)
Cost: Usually around $10, I got them on a discount for $7.50 from rodrigocigars.com. If you are not on his mailing list, you should be. George comes up with discounts on good cigars every couple of months and will email you when he does.

Wrapper & Color: Medium brown, smooth, no veins, slightly grainy to the tongue.
Cold smell: very light barnyard, black tea
Cold draw: Draw itself is a medium, flavor reminiscent of black tea and wood.
Strength: Medium throughout

Construction: Smooth wrapper, no veins, evenly packed but not dense. Looks good. Draw is medium and stays medium throughout the stick. Does not plug behind the coal. Burns straight. Only minor corrections once or twice per stick. Have smoked 8 of these now and it took a few of them to learn how to smoke them. Smoked at my usual pace, the smoke gets a little thin and they tend to go out somewhere around the middle of the stick. I’ve learned to smoke these a little faster than I normally do, but they did not get hot as a result. Flavor stayed with the stick throughout and smoke output remained strong.

Now to the smoke.

First third: A little pepper, but only a little. The cigar starts out with cedar and other wood, tobacco. A little sweet mint on the retrohale, dry toast, black tea, grass, and maybe a little leather. Not at all a sweet stick, but no sourness either. I like the smoke, but is not nearly as sweet as I expected from a Warped cigar.

Second third: The toast becomes a little sweeter, like melba-toast. Grass and tea still present. The [barely-mint] remains, leather disappears. Pepper stays in the background. Not a sweet cigar, but I’m still enjoying the experience.

Last third: Not much transition here but some. Pepper comes forward a bit, but still not a lot of it. Sweetness drops off and the cedar and black tea comes up. Able to smoke it down to the nub. Flavors never get harsh. Smoke time 1 hour.

Over all I like this stick. I can’t say it was sweet but it is a good offering from Warped, something different. I have smoked these with various rums, but no pairing stands out. What does stand out is coffee! This is a great cigar for a coffee pairing.

Here are two other reviews for your reference. The Katman review is a bit mixed but ultimately he likes the cigar. I like Developing Palates reviews, they use two reviewers and print both reviews in parallel. All three of these reviewers, and especially the last two list many flavors, lots of pepper, and the team review basically raves about the stick. I liked it, but did not find it so rich and varied as the other reviews. They smoke well once you have the pace down right.

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…

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!

Aganorsa Leaf TABSA review

Aganorsa Leaf TABSA review

There isn’t a lot of detail to be found on the tobaccos in this cigar. A Nicaraguan puro, this one I am reviewing is the “Bodhi” at 5.25″ x 50 a classic robusto. There are three other sizes, but overall this is the smallest of them. The “Dharam” is 6 x 50, the “Sunyata” is 6 x 60 (sheesh) and the Aficion is 6.5 x 48 which might be interesting.

TABSA stands for the Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. factory in Estelí sold under the Casa Fernandez brand. There is also a “Connecticut” version that sports an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and fillers.

Having gone through most of a box of these now here is my review.

Unlit aroma: light mix of grass, hay, manure, barnyard

Cold draw: slightly salty, grass.

Construction: A+. Wrapper a light brown, mostly smooth, tiny veins. Great draw, smoke output, burn line. Not a densly packed cigar but even. Well made!
I should note I count a good smoke output highly as also a nice medium draw that does not vary (usually to “tighten up”) through the cigar. This stick comes through on both counts.

Flavors: light leather, barnyard, vegetal, and a little roasted nut and sweet wood. No transition, a bit more sweetness comes up from time to time. One dimensional, but what is there is sweet and almost complex except that all of the notes are very light. Sweetness fades a bit in the second half leaving more vegetal grassy, and some cedar flavors. Taste disappears entirely in the last inch. The cigar starts out light, but by the end has reached a medium strength.

If this was a $4 cigar I would say it was great! At least the equal of the new HOYO la Amistad, even a little bit sweeter. Alas it came to me for $6.40 and while the cigar’s construction merits that price, the flavors, in my opinion, do not. The cigar is not bad by any means, but there isn’t enough there for me at that price.

I tried this cigar with various rums, but they all tend to overwhelm the stick. It does pair very well with coffee however. So a good morning cigar complimented by its light-to-medium transition.

There are those in the cigar universe who want to try every Aganorsa leaf cigar that comes along. If you are one of those, put yourself down for a 5 pack or two, you will like it.

3 Good Inexpensive Cigars

3 Good Inexpensive Cigars

I’ve reviewed families of rums in the past, but this is my first multiple cigar review. The cigars here aren’t a family and don’t much resemble one another in any respect other than their price. They all cost about $4/stick (box price) and they are all pretty good if not “great” cigars. The reviews will be short, just the basics. These are good cigars for their price, but they’re not going to compare to more expensive Padron, My Father, Drew Estate, and many others that are two or more times their price. All of these sticks are pretty one dimensional. There isn’t much point in describing their flavors inch by inch, but they do all have decent flavors, and all of them good budget smokes.

SanchPanza

Sancho Panza long corona from Honduras.

5.75″ x 46 box press
Wrapper: Oscuro
Binder/Filler: Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominical Piloto.

Of the three sticks reviewed, this is the sweetest. Wrapper is smooth medium brown in color. Cold smell is barnyard and sweet wood. The cold draw is salty and sweet at the same time. I’ve smoked a half a box of these and encountered no construction issues. Draw is firm but not fighting you and stays that way throughout. Lots of smoke all the way along, burn line is good. Burn time is about an hour and fifteen minutes. I am very impressed with these.

Flavors are sweet wood, nut, and leather. There is little pepper, sometimes some floral notes and an occasional hint of vanilla. Paired with a dark sweet rum the cigar comes up with a very sweet wintergreen note in response. Even on the retrohale there is little pepper here but the leather and sweet wood smoke notes stand out. Strength is a solid medium. All in all this is the smoothest as well as the sweetest of the three cigars. For about $4.25 this is a very good smoke I can take all the way down to less than an inch.

HOYOAmistad

HOYO La Amistad robusto from AJ Fernandez, Nicaragua

5″ x 54
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua (Esteli, Ometepe, Condega, Jalapa)

This is a pretty elaborate blend for a $4 cigar. Anything AJF does is worth trying. Most turn out pretty good, and for the price I’m not going to complain if it doesn’t taste like a Padron or OpusX.

Cold smell is light barnyard, fresh hay, grass. Cold draw doesn’t present much but a little hay and saltiness. The cigar seems well made. Wrapper is light brown in color and looks nice, clean cap. Draw is light on these, maybe too light even for me. Pack is nice and even though. In a whole box I’ve had no construction issues. Burn line is clean with a few minor corrections now and then. Smoke output is excellent all the way through the stick. Burn time about an hour.

Reading reviews of this you would think it cost $12. Yes there is flavor, a little hint of floral sweetness, earth, cedar, and barnyard. But flavors aren’t very strong. Mostly you get a nice thick smoke carrying minimal, but otherwise nice flavors. Some pepper presents itself all the way along, especially on the retrohale where the flavors come forward a bit also. Other reviewers have talked about a lot of pepper, but I just don’t get that myself. Really you only get anything substantial from this cigar on the retrohale. Nothing in the flavor profile is outstanding, but there are no sour or off putting notes either. The cigar is pleasant. Many of you have tried AJ’s “Puro Authentico”. This cigar has the same sort of manly earthiness to it, but the flavors are less full bodied and the flavors mostly disappear by the last inch. Light to medium in strength, of the three cigars reviewed here, this one is the lightest in strength and flavor, but I recommend it as a good change away from sweet.

IllusioneRoth

Illusione Rothchilds Short Robusto.

4.75″ x 50
Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
Binder/Filler: Nicaraguan

Commonly to be found at $3.65 or so (box of 50) this is the strongest and also the least expensive of the sticks reviewed here. Illusione blends are almost always good but tend to be in the $8 – $12 range. This low-ball offering is superb at the price.

Cold smell is mostly manure and floral. Taste is a little salty and dry chocolate. Like the others reviewed the construction of this cigar is excellent. Nice dark brown wrapper, slightly bent cap, a good hefty stick for its size. Of the three cigars this is the most densely packed and very evenly. Draw is medium. Sometimes needs a little burn correction but mostly it’s fine and produces great smoke. Strength is medium to full, burn time about an hour or a little more.

Flavor here is earthy, barnyard, dry chocolate, with a little pepper throughout. Stronger flavor than the HOYO and not as sweet as the Sancho Panza. The retrohale is particularly earthy and full of burning wood with more pepper. Flavors stay with the stick down to less than an inch. Of the three sticks I like these the best. Flavors are similar in strength to the Sancho Panza but more earthy, a cigar man’s cigar.

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All three of these sticks are worth their price and make a good rotation for one another. In connection with this price point I should mention a fourth stick reviewed elsewhere on the blog, the Drew Estate Papas Fritas. At about $4.35 only a few cents higher than the Sancho Panza, it is by far the most flavorful cigar of the group but it is also smaller than the others. All to be enjoyed though. See what you think. I know that many of my readers have a larger discretionary budget than I do. I once did myself, but no longer. Discovering so many good cigars in the under $5 range has been a delight.