Cigar Review: PUNCH Signature

Cigar Review: PUNCH Signature

I have smoked many Punch cigars. A big brand with Cuban roots. Can usually be counted on to be a good if not great stick. The Gran Puro was one of the early sticks in my line up and I still like it today. The Bareknuckle and BareKunckle-elites (the last a petit corona vitola I have not seen in a few years) are quite good. I’ve gone through more than a few boxes of Elites in the last two years not because they are so great, but because they are very inexpensive. I recently stumbled on a new (to me) Punch, the SIGNATURE. These came out in 2015. There are 4 vitolas, the 4.5″x54 Rothschild (a robusto) I’m smoking is the smallest of them and retails these days for around $6.25. I found a box (18 sticks) for about a dollar less so I thought I’d give them a try.

A very international cigar. I count 5 countries involved below… There is a lot in this blend by Augustin Garcia and it shows.

Wrapper: Ecuador Corojo
Binder: Proprietary (to General cigar) Connecticut Habano
Filler: Dominican AND Nicaraguan — Stogie review says this is the same blend as the original Punch but that was Cuban. They might mean after the marque moved from Cuba to Florida.
Manufactured: STG Donli factory Honduras.

Construction.. Slightly toothy brown wrapper. A little oily sheen. Medium dense/weight cigar. Packing firm, even. Draw light as I like it. Stays smooth, light draw, and burns well all the way down. Little need for correction. Slow smoking. 1 hour 15 minutes for me with this vitola. Smoke output not super thick but pretty good. Leaving the cigar sit a minute for the coal to cool down the first puff a little thin, but a double puff gives good and creamy smoke.

Cold smell: strong manure, barnyard, sweet honeysuckle flower. This a very rich cold smell.

Flavors in smoke: Dry and flat when first lit, the cigar comes into its own after about 1/4″. Roasted nut, cashew, melba toast, leather, earth, cedar are all in there. Pepper sneaks up at the 1/2″ mark and hangs around… Much of it on the retrohale, which by the way is pretty potent here. Though there are Dominican tobaccos in the blend I have not noticed any “Dominican twang” in this stick. Interesting because the Halfwheel review complains about it a lot (see below). The flavors are pretty distinct and the whole tends towards a sweetness I don’t get from Punch blends otherwise.

Into the cigar’s second half there is a lot of sweetness here still. A hint of that  sweet flower in the cold smell comes across too. Contrasted with the earthiness this is a very tasty cigar! Full body. Medium to full strength. A cigar smoker’s cigar! In the last third the flavors are perhaps more blended and sometimes a little stronger. Very unusual… In terms of flavor (construction of Punch cigars generally is very good) this might be the best Punch I’ve ever smoked. Stays enjoyable down to the last half inch, the mark of a great stick.

Here are three other reviews for your perusal from Halfwheel, Stogie Guys, and Cigar Dojo. There are many others.

Cigar Review: Foundation Charter Oak

Cigar Review: Foundation Charter Oak

I’ve made note lately of a few boutique cigar makers having introduced a lower-priced stick to their line. This appears to be Foundation’s offering, and it is superb! At roughly $5.50 (mid 2019 full retail) this cigar is full of great flavors and only occasionally presents some construction issues.

I link two other reviews below that will also tell you about the name “Charter Oak” (hint: there is a certain 900 year-old oak tree growing in Connecticut) and some more about the history of the stick. I’ll stick to the basics here..

I am reviewing the 4.25″x42 “petit corona” in the maduro wrapper. There are 3 other vitolas: a 6″x52 Toro, a 6.25″x46 Lonsdale, and a 4.25″x50 Rothchild (classic Robusto size). We are not told much about the composition of this cigar.

Rolled at the AJ Fernandez factory in Nicaragua

Filler/Binder: Nicaraguan, no other specifics given
Wrapper: Connecticut broadleaf

Construction: Some imperfections in the wrapper, a bump here and there, some vein, but well rolled. Medium firm pack, medium density. Closed foot, self-toasting when lit. Draw is light to medium but gets a little tighter as it goes. I’ve smoked four of these now. One plugged after being lit producing thin smoke and no amount of cigar tool really helped for long. Other three very rich smoke on a good draw all the way down. The stick has a tendency to canoe when first lit, but after one correction burns pretty straight. Construction is not bad for the price. Hoping the rest of the box is mostly better-constructed examples.

Cold aroma: I get barnyard, manure (sometimes called “earth”) and a strong note of black tea. A very rich cold aroma.

Cold flavor: Salty, leather, barnyard

Smoking experience: Little pepper, nice sweet wood, flowers, hay. A half inch in flowers, mint, leather, sweet wood smoke, cedar, barnyard and leather. There’s a lot of flavors in here, even something like a Melba toast sweetness on the retrohale. No pepper to speak of (tiny bit) at this early stage. Most of the flavor in this cigar is in the retrohale.

Second half.. a caramel sweetness and more Melba comes forward in the retrohale, maybe wintergreen. Still getting leather, cedar, nice sweet wood flavors and aromas.

In the last few inches flavors dial back a bit but still all there. Pepper comes up in the retrohale but not to painful levels. Nice smoke all the way to 1/2″.

Pairing with a Foursquare pot-still Bajan rum brings out the sweetness in the cigar. Coffee works well too. I am very impressed with this stick. Not as rich as Foundation’s Tabernacle blend, but damned good for half the price! Highly recommended!

Here are two more reviews. One from Stogie Review, and the other from Leaf Enthusiast.

Cigar Review: Surrogates Cracker Crumbs

Cigar Review: Surrogates Cracker Crumbs

If before discovering these cigars you asked me for my pick of the “best cigar for the money” I would have said the Drew Estate Papa’s Fritas. True their price has gone up by about 30% in the years since they first appeared, but they are still a great stick for the money. Having encountered these Cracker Crumbs, retailing at only $2.90/stick (I found them for $2.45) I might have to change my mind…

Surrogates are one of L’Atelier’s brands and rolled at the My Father factory in Esteli Nicaragua. My Father knows how to roll a cigar and L’Atelier is adept at finding delicious blends. So far so good. Surrogates gives each of its vitolas names. The Cracker Crumbs is a 4.5″ x 38 (so petit corona) version of the much larger (6″ x 60) “Animal Crackers”, a cigar I haven’t tried as that vitola is just way to big for me..

Let’s get to the meat of it…

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Cold Aroma: Very light. Some barnyard, something a little sweet (leather?). Nice but indistinct.
Cold Draw: Salt, light grass or hay. Again indistinct

Construction: This cigar is a little rough. a maduro-dark brown, easily visible seams, some prominent veins. Evenly packed though, and a little heavy, a somewhat dense cigar. Interestingly, the cigar is pre-straight-cut almost as though when L’Atelier got their order of paper wrappers (5 cigars to a pack) they were slightly too small and someone came up with the brilliant idea of pre-cutting the stick to fit. Pure speculation on my part. If you look carefully there is clearly a double cap at the head, so these were not made to be open like a cheroot.

Meanwhile, the stick smokes beautifully and very slowly. Lots of creamy smoke, medium draw throughout, and an even burn requiring only occasional touch up. I’ve been through two packs of these and only a couple required any poking with a draw tool to loosen it a bit. Consistently smokes about an hour.

Flavors: This is the best tasting cigar under $3 I have ever had. It begins with a little pepper, sweet woods, graham cracker, and evolves a little more sweetness and leather. On the tongue alone the flavors are muddled, but become distinctively sweet (along with more pepper) on the retrohale. The flavors evolve through the first half of the cigar, more maple wood sweetness and leather come forward, some roasted nut, and a little wintergreen. As the stick smokes down the sweetness fades a bit, the pepper comes forward, but the leather and scent of burning leaves remain. The cigar holds some flavors down to the last 3/4″ so all is good.

Are the Cracker Crumbs as good as the Papa’s Fritas? Well no, not quite. A few of these drew a bit tight and I had to use my draw tool. I never have to do that with the Papa’s Fritas. But the flavors are in the same wheelhouse (the D.E. cigar is a little more flavorful with coco and less pepper) and it is almost $2 less expensive (retail to retail) a 40% reduction! I would say don’t miss these unless you just don’t like L’Atelier or the vitola. Here are a couple of other reviews from HALFWHEEL and LEAF ENTHUSIAST

Cigar Review: Warped “Maestro del Tiempo”

Cigar Review: Warped “Maestro del Tiempo”

Wrapper: Jalapa Nicaragua Corojo 99 Aganorsa
Binder: Nicaraguan Condega
Filler: Criollo 98 and Corojo 99
Rolled at the TABSA (Casa Fernandez) factory in Esteli Nicaragua, the brand (Warped) owner is Kyle Gellis.

I am smoking the production “5205” version a 6.3″ x 42 a longish corona they call a lonsdale.

A little difficult to get the composition straight. Here is what HALFWHEEL and Cigar Dojo say about this stick. But one learns something every time. I did not ever know what AGANORSA means… According to the Cigar Dojo review linked just above: “This acronym represents Agricola Ganadera Norteña S.A., a series of Nicaraguan farms owned by the Fernández family (Casa Fernández) that produce among the largest yields of Nicaraguan tobaccos, as well as some of the most highly acclaimed tobacco in the world.”

So this looks like a great cigar right? Well yes it is, but it isn’t really my cup of tea. Read on..

Cold aroma: Rich manure, barnyard, leather. This is a rich smelling wrapper!
Cold taste: salty, grassy, and a little lemon-grass sour.

Construction: The sticks I smoked (five so far) were all pretty good. Light brown smooth wrapper, a few small visible veins. Evenly packed. Not super-dense, but not light either. Draw was medium and mostly stayed that way. Smoke output excellent all along the stick. Burn line required a minor correction from time to time but no big deal. Smoke time almost 90 minutes. Overall an “A” for construction.

Flavors: When first lit I get fresh hay, flowers, brown sugar, nuts, and sweet woods — like burning dry maple leaf. Only a little pepper tingle to speak of. Getting into it a bit there is a hint of candy-like sweetness on the retrohale and a very little bit of white pepper, still a tingle and very rounded. Pairing this stick with a mild rum I also get a hint of spearment in the smoke. As I smoke a little more a mild sourness (some call this an umami-sort of flavor, I like to think of it as cabbage cooked in tomato juice) that reminds me of the twang one often finds in Dominican cigars, something I cannot remember sensing before in a Nicaraguan Puro.

In the middle of the cigar, the nut, sweetness, and woods fade a bit and the grassy vegetal comes up along with that sourness. Pepper goes up a bit on the retrohale, but never dominates.  In the last third, the sweet woodiness returns along with some leather. A bit of that sourness remains throughout. The cigar stays pretty much medium in strength, but because it is rather long, it will give you a buzz by the time you finish it.

OK, so far so good… For me, a cigar cannot be a “great cigar” unless it satisfies three criteria:
1. Good if not excellent construction
2. Rich flavors either blended together or distinct
3. Must retain flavors (and not become merely hot smoke) down to the last inch at least — I like to go to the last 3/4″.

This cigar qualifies on all three points, but still of all the Warped cigars I’ve tried I like this one the least and that because of the sour note that gets more noticable through the middle third of the cigar. I have smoked many AGANORSA Nicaraguan Puros and I cannot remember that sourness in any of the others. I can handle a little of it and this stick is fine, the note never dominates the flavor and lots of smokers love it. This will be a great stick for a lot of people.

Cigar Review: Warped La Relatos

Cigar Review: Warped La Relatos

 

Cigar aficionado says a re-intro of a blend from 2008. The vitola here is something between a corona and a lancero at 6.25″ x 38.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan mix of Corojo 99 and Criollo 98

Construction: Smooth wrapper, no visible veins, medium brown, evenly packed. I’ve smoked through five of these now, all very consistent. After cut the draw is medium though a few sticks are a little on the hard side of medium. I had to make a few minor corrections while smoking one or two, but mostly burn stays pretty level all the way down. Smoke output is excellent.

Cold smell: Mild barnyard, some hay.

Strength: medium

Flavors: Lovely wood, caramel, melba toast on rich sweet retrohale, little pepper, heady… Wintergreen/peppermint when paired with rum. Very smooth, light on pepper in the first half. Later, still sweet. Little more pepper, cedar and melba toast on retrohale. There is but a little pepper on these, even the retrohale is smooth.  There isn’t a lot of transition in flavors from one part of the cigar to the next, but all along the sweet woods, toast, and sometimes tea and leather all make their presence known. Smoke time goes about an hour and fifteen minutes, a slow and very evenly smoking cigar.

This is a very smooth cigar over all, well constructed and tasty all the way down to the last half inch. I got these with a discount (cigarandpipes.com get on their mailing list) for about $6.25/stick, their retail price is something closer to $8. But even at that this is an excellent cigar. Warped has another winner here.

 

 

 

 

Cigar Review: Crowned Heads Luminosa

Cigar Review: Crowned Heads Luminosa
Luminosa various views

A new (to me) Crowned Heads cigar introduced to the world in 2016. There are reviews to be found but not much about its composition. The cigar is rolled at Tabacalera Alianza S.A. in the Dominican Republic. This is the factory of E.P. Carillo, and he along with Jon Huber are named as the blenders for this one. Another review says the filler and binder are Nicaraguan though they are not specified. The wrapper is given as Ecuadorian Connecticut.

The Luminosa comes in three vitolas: Toro (6×52), Robusto (5×50) and Petit Corona (4×44). I wanted the petit corona but could not find it. I ended up with the robusto normally retailing for $7.75 but they ended up being $6 at the box level to me.

Construction: The wrapper is a medium brown, slightly shiny. There is a small vein or two here and there showing. Nothing impressive or unusual here. The pack is even all the way around on the three I’ve tried so far and somewhat light, not a densely packed cigar, I expect the draw will be superb. The draw is superb, light with only a slight resistance, it remains that way throughout the smoke. Speaking of smoke, the output on this one is also excellent. Nice creamy thick smoke throughout. Burn line also stays good though a few corrections helped from time to time. Construction gets an “A”. All is good so far.

Cold aroma/flavor: Light barnyard, manure, black tea, a little leather. The aroma is not very rich, but all good. The cold draw taste is a little like toast and slightly salty, but there isn’t much to it.

Flavors: I always expect something good from Crowned Heads and the Luminosa delivers. In the first third I sensed browned butter, toast, a little leather and barnyard, hay, and maybe roasted nut. As the cigar progressed its pepper, almost absent at first came up a bit especially on the retrohale. The cigar doesn’t get very peppery making the retrohale easy and very rich. Don’t be afraid with this one. As the cigar smokes on, the nut and butter dial back and some sweet cedar along with the hay comes more forward.

The flavors dial in and out with every puff, but all of them have something to recommend. The cigar starts out pretty mild in strength and gets maybe to a medium when finished. This is a great cigar and remained flavorful down to the last half inch; “A+”. I paired all three of the cigars so far with coffee recommended by most of the reviewers. A really good morning cigar.

Smoke time was a few minutes under an hour. Most robustos go over an hour for me, but being lightly packed this stick smokes a little fast especiall in the first half. Still all and all a satisfying smoke and if I can find another box at $6 I will pick it up. Crowned Heads has another winner here.

Somke on BOTL!

Double Cigar Review: Emanuel Cigars “Classic Premium” and “Hemingway”

Double Cigar Review: Emanuel Cigars “Classic Premium” and “Hemingway”

I met an agent for Emanuel Cigars online. Her company is HERE. It’s a bit difficult to find your way to the cigar vitola and price list, but if you contact her she will send you a pdf of the list with prices. After looking over their product (see links above), I ended up buying two each of two of their cigars. You will notice two things about their product. First they have a lot of cigars, and second each cigar comes in four or five vitolas! What I purchased was their “Classic Premium” Petit Corona ($8) and the “Hemingway” Petit Corona ($10). These are not inexpensive cigars.

At this link you will find some more information about the company and their tobacco. The owner, Nelson Medina is I presume the blender, and he seems to know what he is doing. Both of these cigars were very flavorful. All Emanuel Cigars seem to be Dominican puros and come exclusively from farms in the North of the Dominican Republic; a place called the Cibao Valley. There is nothing on the website that says anything specific about the wrapper, binder, and filler. It seems not to be written for the aficionado who expects at least that much. So how do they smoke?

Classic Premium

Vitola: Petit Corona 5 x 42 ($8 retail)
Wrapper/binder/filler: Dominican

Cold smell: Grass, flowers, faint barnyard, sweet
Cold draw/taste: Black tea, some vegetal mushroom combined with a flower sweetness

Construction: Evenly packed if a little light. The wrapper a little rough, medium brown. After cutting draw was excellent throughout. Both of the sample cigars canoe a bit at the beginning, but a single correction takes care of it. Smoke output is nice and thick. Stays that way throughout the smoke. Both samples required a little correction here and there but I give them an “A” for construction on this one.

Strength: Mild to medium all the way through. This would be a good cigar for a casual smoke and for beginners. Will not overwhelm.

Flavor: Leather, flowers, warm sweet woodiness, nutty. No pepper to speak of on the taste until near the end, but there is some on the retrohale. The flavors include a certain meaty sourness that I find a lot in Dominican tobaccos. I don’t like it at all when it dominates the flavor, but here it mingles with enough sweetness, almost raw-sugar like, that it works. All the various flavors, even a cinnamon-like warm spice come and go throughout. The stick keeps its flavors until the nub. All good. Smoke time was about 50 minutes, about right for a small stick.

I think Emanuel has a winner here depending on what you think of that meaty note that pops in on every other puff. I’m not a big fan, but there are smokers who are attracted to that very flavor. There is a reason, after all, the Dominican Republic sells a lot of cigars.

Hemmingway

Vitola: Petit Corona Figurado 4.5 x 42 ($10 retail)
Wrapper/binder/filler: Dominican

Cold smell: Manure, black tea, barnyard, grass
Cold draw/taste: Pepper on the wrapper, barnyard

Construction: OK, figurados are harder to roll than parejos. This tiny one (both samples I smoked) was way too tight. The first was almost plugged. I had to use a draw tool, something tough to do on such a small cigar. The second had a better draw, but was still pretty tight all the way along by my standards. On both of these I had to cut off the little foot extension to get it lit. For what it’s worth, the wrapper, a dark brown, was smoothly applied, pack was even.

Once it got going I had to fight the first one all the way along. The second smoked better requiring only a little correction here and there. Smoke output was fine once fully lit, but had to pull at these a lot more to get that smoke. I can only give Emanuel a “B” for construction — well wrapped, even pack, way too hard to draw. I like figurados, but if you don’t do them right it doesn’t do any good.

Strength: Medium

Flavor: Again Mr. Medina seems to know what he is doing with tobaccos. There were sweet woods here, brown sugar, roasted nut, and even something like candied fruit in here. There is also that Dominican sourness I don’t particularly like, but as with the other cigar, it melds pretty well with everything else here alternating with sugary sweetness and diminishing toward the end of the cigar. Lots of flavors melding on the retrohale and pepper too. Again a very flavorful cigar if a little bit of a fight to smoke.

The first of these smoked only 37 minutes probably because I had to correct it a lot. The second was better, smoked straighter with but a little correction and lasted 47 minutes. For $10 I think these need a little more work.

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All in all, good flavors in both of these smokes especially if you like that “Dominican twang” as some have called it. Use the links above if you want to check out the company and try their smokes.