Cigar Review: Foundation Tabernacle

Cigar Review: Foundation Tabernacle

A while now since my last cigar review. Must keep my fan-base happy. Not everyone into philosophy?

So up today is the Tabernacle Corona (4.25″ x 46) from Nicholas Melillo’s Foundation Cigar. If you don’t know that name, Nicholas, along with Steve Saka were among the luminaries responsible for so many blends delivered to us from Drew Estate. Now his own company, this is one of his two first releases and it is nothing short of wonderful! I’ve smoked 8 of a box of 24 so far. All have been excellent.

The Tabernacle is rolled at the AJ Fernandez Factory in Esteli Nicaragua. They have the rolling skills to build a great cigar and they deliver here.

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Mexican San Andres
Filler: Honduran and Nicaraguan

Prelight aroma: Sweet, nutty, hay, and mild barnyard
Cold draw: a little salt, perfect draw, light but something there to notice.

No soft spots, wrapper is flawless, let’s light it up.

Draw great and remains perfect throughout the smoke. No burn issues, nice even burn all the way down. Copius smoke output. Construction by the AJF folks is flawless.

First taste produces only a smidgen of pepper, sweet hay, light barnyard flavors, leather, and roasted nuts. Throughout the first third these flavors are all present, changing places in strength. The cigar is very smooth with little pepper at this point. Retrohale is amazingly rich and nutty. At this point the cigar is a medium.

As I get to the half-way point the pepper comes up just a little, the nutty sweetness dials back, but the flowers are still there and some mint and licorish makes its appearance. Slightly fewer transitions here, but the distinct sweetness is still present now transferring from nut to mint or wintergreen. Now we’re at medium-full strength.

In the last third the pepper gets stronger and all the flavors dial back but do not disappear. The mint and licorish still remain and become more dominant. All the way through the stick I’m smoking now (about 4 months in my humidor) the draw and burn stay perfect. This has been the case with all the Tabernacles I’ve smoked so far; kudos again to the folks at Tabacalera Fernandez! The cigar reaches its full strength in the last third, but it never becomes overwhelming. In the final inch the pepper gets quite strong and the smoke gets flatter, but the flavor never completely vanishes. Excellent smoke!

At about $8 (box level) the stick has become a little expensive for my retirement budget, but as these things go, that is an excellent price for a cigar of this outstanding quality. In the last couple of years I’ve discovered outstanding cigars in the “under $10” price range. If you can afford it, this is one not to miss!

The pairing here is the last of a bottle of Foursquare “Port Cask Finish” (link to the review). I notice the rum very much enhances the wintergreen sweetness of the cigar. I take note of this because this rum and cigar go well together, each distinctly affecting the flavor of the other. I’ve smoked these with coffee (also excellent) and other rums, but this one seems to stand out.

Not to be missed. I wish it was a dollar less expensive, but I will save my pennies for another box. Meanwhile I’ll smoke the rest of these slowly!

Cigar Review: Casa Cuba Flor Fina

Cigar Review: Casa Cuba Flor Fina

It has been a while since I stumbled on a new cigar. I recently tried the Caldwell “Long Live the King” line I will review another time, but about a month before Christmas I stumbled on these Casa Cuba from Arturo Fuente and the Tabacelera factory in the Dominican Republic! I think this is the nicest cigar since I stumbled on Roma Craft a few years back.

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Size: The box says 4.5 x 54″, but I measure them out to 4.75″ x 52. In either case a classic robusto.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Havana
Binder: Dominican (unspecified)
Filler: Cuban seed Dominican

Smell: light, tobacco and fresh hay.
Cold draw: hay, grass, and salt
Pack: firm and even but medium in weight. Not dense.

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Lighting up the first thing you notice is the draw, just enough to tell you something is there, but not in any way a strain to smoke. It stays exactly this way throughout the smoke. I’ve had 8 of these now and they are one of the best and most consistently constructed cigars I’ve smoked. I had to make one small burn correction on this one at the beginning, and then never again. You also notice the smoke output. This cigar is a rich and creamy smoke producer. Again, the same all the way down.

The flavors are sweet and distinct if somewhat light. The first notes are light tobacco, pepper, and hay. A half inch in I get nut, leather, hay, and mowed grass notes. There is pepper all the way along too but not overwhelming and none of the sour notes often found in Dominican blends. The retrohale is filled with roasted nut, nutmeg, sweet burning wood, wintergreen, and hay. In the last third of the cigar the sweetness fades but never disappears as the pepper comes forward.

Strength stays a solid medium all the way along the smoke. It’s nice and slow too, this particular example took an hour and thirty to finish with flavors persisting all the way down to the nub. I was surprised how long it lasted given the gentle draw, but despite a light/medium pack, the tobacco burned very slowly. The flavors are never in your face, but always there hanging around. They don’t vary much throughout the cigar either, there are not a lot of transitions, but it’s good all the way along to the end.

If I remember these sticks were near $9 a stick at the box level. That makes them a little expensive for me. I’ve smoked more flavorful $9 cigars, but given the construction, smoke output, sweetness, and all the other great things about this stick, including some very sweet if light flavors, I’m sure I will want more if I can ever afford them again.

The rum being paired here is a Foursquare Zinfandel Cask Blend Reviewed here.

Cigar Review: Rodrigo Corona Project

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You have no doubt noticed I’ve smoked a lot of cigars from George Rodriguez of Rodrigo Cigars! I think I stumbled on George about a year ago while looking for “Leaf by Oscar” lanceros. George usually has them in all 3 or 4 of their wrappers (I’ve bought bundles of the maduro, Corojo, and Sumatra) and he often has them at a generous discount. Indeed, his frequent discounts (and always free shipping on orders of $50 or more) have kept me coming back to his online store, and now besides the Leafs and several boxes of Padilla Reserva San Andres, I’ve been smoking his “house blends”. He did a clever thing sometime back, he sent me a free sampler of 5 of his experimental blends. One of those cigars was fantastic, one of the best I’ve ever smoked (see my review of the collection here), three were pretty good, and one not so much. None of those blends are in production, but the samples did tell me that George knows how to blend a good cigar.

The “Corona Project” is George’s top of the line production house blend. It comes at a top of the line retail price of $9.50/stick, but I got mine for $7.75 thanks to being on his mailing list and seeing one of those frequent discounts come along. I’ve also reviewed George’s Fortaleza Absoluto also good and retailing at around the $7 mark before any discount.

This is a classic corona, 6″x43 with a pigtail cap and closed foot. The filler is an all ligero blend of Dominican Criollo 98, Corojo, and HVA (Honduran maybe?). The binder is Sumatra Ecuador, and the wrapper a maduro broadleaf US Connecticut! Each cigar is aged for a year before release.

The cold aroma of the cigar is dominated by manure and barnyard, but there is something unusual here, a sort of smokey aroma I remember from unlit black Latakia pipe tobacco. I haven’t smoked a pipe in 30 years, but the aroma of that tobacco is very distinct and it came back to me immediately. Cold taste is a little salty with hay and flower notes. Construction seems great. I can trace the wrapper seam and there are some veins. The pack is firm and very even. This is not a super dense cigar but it isn’t lightly packed either.

On initial light the cigar is only mildly peppered. By the last couple of inches, the pepper is dominant, especially in the retrohale. Flavors flit in and out throughout the stick. There is a sweet woodiness, leather, hay from time to time, lots of roasted nut and sometimes a sweet mintiness. The retrohale is particularly rich in the nut aromas, sweet flowers, and some warm baking spices like nutmeg. Draw was perfect all the way along and never needs any correction. I did do a minor burn touch up once in a while, but I do that a lot anyway. Smoke output is great. I’ve smoked three of these now and they have all been consistent. I smoked each down to the last 1/2 inch with smoke time being about 80 minutes. This is a nice slow burning stick.

Is the stick worth a $9.50 retail price? Let me put it this way. If Illusione, Tatuaje, or Roma Craft released this same blend at this price I think they would have a big hit and we would all be raving about it. But competing with many other very fine cigars at this price point is going to be tough for a house blend. There are a lot of great cigars in the $9-$10 retail range that are much better known! George’s ace-in-the-hole are his frequent discounts, so as always I recommend getting on his mailing list and watching for those to come along.

I’ve paired this stick with coffee, a dark rum, and my Elijah Craig bourbon. All go very well.

Cigar Review: Rodrigo Fortaleza Absoluto

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A rodrigocigars.com house blend, but George does seem to have a talent for blending. Not that everything is great (see my review of a set of experimental blends he sent me). But I’ve had two of his production house blends now and they’re both very good. This review is of the first of those two blends, the Fortaleza (the blend) Absoluto (the vitola).

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra

Binder: Dominican

Filler: Dominican, Peruvian

Vitola: Classic Corona, 5.5″x43

Cold smell: Manure, barnyard, and something sweet like clove or allspice

Construction very nice. Pack and roll is all even, few visible seams, no veins, draw just right.

The cigar begins with noticeable pepper along with a sweet woodiness, barnyard, and salt. Reminds me a lot of the Asylum Nyctophylia. After a while there is a little leather, cedar, and some sweet sort of mintyness. After a while the draw gets a little tight as the tobacco expands behind the coal. My draw tool takes care of the problem, but I have to re use it a few times along the smoke as this kind of plugging up happens every half inch or so. Smoke is rich, and strongly flavored, Smoke output stays dense throughout, there is a lot of pepper on the retrohale.

In the second third more mint, leather, warm spice, salt and pepper and behind it all a strong sort of rough tobacco flavor, lots of roast vegetal and burning hay notes. Burn is very even and slow. No corrections needed well into the last third.

As the cigar crosses into the last third all the flavor notes are still there, but the pepper comes up more to the front along with hay, especially on the retrohale. I get a brown sugar sort of sweetness but that might be coming up from the Elijah Craig bourbon I’m pairing with this smoke and working very well with it. It does seem that a sweet rich bourbon like this one goes better with this strongly flavored cigar than most of my rums, though of those, the tobacco notes of the Dos Maderas rums work well too.

I have to make my first and only burn correction at about 2″. The cigar stays a solid medium throughout maybe pushing into the full side of medium in the last third. I have smoked 3 of these so far, they have all been good. For $7 regular price this isn’t a bad cigar, but take off 10% or 15% for one of George’s monthly discounts and it becomes a really good and flavorful cigar for the price. I very much recommend getting on George’s mailing list at rodrigocigars.com. His discounts come along once a month or so and he carries a few premium blends (like Leaf, Padilla, and more) at reasonable prices.

I reviewed some of George’s creations over here in the Rodrigo Box, but none of those are available, very limited editions. These Fontalezas are production cigars and so usually available.

Cigar Review: Red Lion Cheroot

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Always on the lookout for a budget cigar, I think I hit the bottom of the barrel and actually found something interesting. Over the past 6+ years I’ve been smoking cigars regularly I haven’t come across any of the usual blends offered as cheroots, an open-ended and rough-rolled vitola with varying sizes. These Red Lion Cheroots fit that description, and roughly rolled would be an understatement. Still I don’t see why a cheroot shouldn’t be a good cigar. This one was certainly inexpensive enough. Normally retailing for $1+/stick, I got them for $0.67/stick in a box of 60 from Cigars International. Since my girl friend enjoys her inexpensive cigars I figured if I didn’t like these, she would. Little did I know.

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Construction and smoke-ability.

The cigar is 6″ x 34 but vary a lot as you can see from the picture. Some are as thin as 28 or 30. The roll is really rough. Wrapper is thick and overlaps itself all along the stick. The seams are prominent and sometimes even curl back on themselves giving the cigars a really gnarly look. I don’t mind that look, and some of these sticks look really good, nice and even (if gnarly) all the way along their length while others vary considerably from the foot to the head. Just for fun I cut one of these open (there are a couple of pictures) and found both a wrapper and binder, the latter wrapped twice around the filler which was a chopped up short filler with a couple of longer leaves.

The cold smell is interesting, pretty strong, grass, hay, and vegetal aromas. The cold draw has similar notes. As for smoking, these vary a lot. I’ve had about 10 of them now, and half smoked pretty good. All of them require some burn correction because the wrapper is thick and doesn’t burn evenly all the way around. But the good-half, smoked well, produced a good creamy smoke only a little hot, but not too bad. The good ones smoked well down to just past the first half then got a little soft and required a few relights. Yet they remained very smoke-able down into the last third. On the other hand, half of these (so far) don’t do so well requiring frequent relights and burn corrections even in their first half. So a very mixed bag here, these sticks are anything but consistent as goes their smoking.

Flavors

It was here these cheap little sticks surprised me. This is good tasting tobacco! Charred cedar, pepper, roasted nut, mint, leather, and roasted vegetables. Even the cigars that didn’t smoke well had the flavors, and the ones that did smoke well kept them. To say the least I was very surprised! Pretty good flavor for a $0.67 cigar and those flavors stayed with the smoke at least down to the last 2″ and a few beyond that. The smoke is a little hot compared to a better cigar, and the most poorly constructed examples get hotter than the better ones.

A bit hit or miss on these. The better ones smoke 20-25 minutes down past the last third, the poorer ones about 15 minutes before they get hot and flavorless. If you’re looking to keep a few quick smokes around that you don’t mind tossing out if you have to, these would be good. Even if I don’t smoke them, my girl friend says they’re the most flavorful cigars in her collection. A good deal!

Cigar Review: Padilla Reserva San Andres

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I’ve been a fan of Ernesto Padilla’s blends for some time. They are often a little expensive, so when these popped up for well under $6 I had to chance them. I’m into my second box now.

5×54 big robusto

Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
Binder: Nicaraguan (?)
Filler: Nicaraguan Aganorsa

Appearance: medium dark brown wrapper, slightly oily. Few veins, no seams. Tight pack, heavy cigar. Entubo rolled. Straight cut draw excellent.

Aroma: Barnyard, light manure, fresh hay.

1/3: Light on pepper, just a touch. Sweet wood, roasted pecan, floral notes. Warm spice like cinnamon and cardamom, brown sugar, and toast. Smoke output is great, smooth and creamy all the way down. Draw also great. Burnline good, 1 minor correction in the first inch.

2/3: Another review finds coffee here, but I do not sense it. The smoke is still sweet but more woody now, perhaps cedar. A cool mint-like spice creeps in, but not sweet. Burn is great, smoke output excellent, and the draw still perfect. Tobacco flavors come across here as something vegetal which begins to get stronger as I reach the half way point.

3/3: The flavors are all there, even the brown sugar. Pepper stays in the background, never very powerful. A little red pepper enters into the finish. I keep expecting to find leather here, but I do not sense it. The sweetness fades a little and the woody/vegetal comes forward a bit. I don’t sense the nuts any more, but the aroma of burning wood is there and there is still toast on the finish.
I’ve paired these cigars with many rums and coffee. I think the coffee goes best, but the Mocambo 20 rum brings out the sugar in the cigar. Smoke time was 1 hour and 20 minutes, a nice slow an smooth smoking cigar. At their roughly $5.50 price point, these are excellent cigars.

Cigar Review: E.P. Carillo La Historia

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Format: 6″ x 50 (measured at 48rg) so a smallish toro.

Appearance: Dark brown smooth, slightly toothy, no veins, visible seams, medium weight, firmly packed all the way along.
Cold Smell: Dark Tobacco, barnyard, bitter chocolate, coffee. The richest cocolate cold smell I’ve experienced!
Draw/Smoke: Perfect for me from the beginning. Tightens up a little too much in the second half. Lots of smoke, very creamy.

Initial flavors: Cedar, molasses, roasted nut, coffee, and yes pepper!

Smoke output is great as is draw. Burn line stays even all the way down. I had to make one correction in the last third, and I also used my draw tool to free up a draw that got tighter in the second half of the cigar and became too tight in the last 3 inches.

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I smoked the first inch before trying the rum I chose to pair with this, my Pampero Aniversario R.E. This is a rum I haven’t reviewed here yet, but I will get around to it soon as it is one of the good ones. Before the rum I was getting all the flavors above and along the way some sweet spice like cinnamon crept in as did leather and a bit of mint. After I sipped the rum the cigar took on a strong licorish with sugar flavor, wow! I rarely experience such a dramatic flavor enhancement this way, but the licorish kept coming back every time I sipped the rum until about the last third when it faded away.

As we get into the second half the flavors fade back, but never go away. The pepper seems to mellow for a while, but then roars back in the last third. Smoke output stays strong even when the draw tightens up but eventually I had to loosen it with a draw tool. I was still tasting the leather, sweet charred wood and other flavors down to the final inch. Not as strong as in the first half of the stick, but then perhaps my palate was just getting tired out. A good smoke time of 90 minutes, about right for a small toro like this. Construction was great. Clean burn all the way along to the last 3 inches where I had to make a little correction and loosen up the draw

I bought a box (10) of these some 18 months ago. Was not impressed at the beginning. I thought the EPC core line was better (and less expensive). I let half of them sit for a year and they got better, but still not worth their price (IMHO of course). Now at 18 months they are better still, sweeter. Perhaps this is their peak? I have one remaining and will smoke it sooner rather than later.

Smoke on BOTL & SOTL. Your comments always welcome.