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.

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.

casacuba1

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.

casacuba2

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

RodrigoCoronaProject

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.