Cigar Review: Juarez Shots by Crowned Heads

Cigar Review: Juarez Shots by Crowned Heads

Not exactly the “new cigar” I thought, but the vitola is new and alas only 500 boxes of 50 cigars were made! There are three other vitolas in regular production, more expensive than these shots. This page at Famous Smoke will show you the rest. As of this writing they are still available at Famous and also at Atlantic Cigar. The “Shots” listed originally for $6 in these boxes. You find boxes commonly for $5.50 and with some discounts and specials I found mine for $4.50, but I expect this one box will be the only one I will ever have. Too bad! These are delicious! Let’s have a look..

The Shots are a 4″ x 50 “petit robusto” rolled at Tabacalera Pichardo in Estelí, Nicaragua

Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
Binder: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Filler: Dominican and Nicaraguan

The wrapper is a maduro dark chocolate brown, slight oily sheen. A few veins show up along the wrapper in most of the sticks. Did you know the little veins carry a disproportionate amount of cigar flavor? The pack is firm all the way along. Pretty dense, heavy stick for its size.

Cold smell: Heady mix of black tea, manure, barnyard. Very rich. I love it already!

Construction: Have had 6 so far and the draws/burn-line on all have been great. Smoke output excellent. Burn is slow, 1 hour to smoke, a couple went 70 minutes! A+ on construction, something you don’t find on many sub-$6 sticks. Kudos to Crowned Heads!

Flavors: Initial light and first half, very light on the pepper. Brown sugar, toffee roasted nut, peanut butter, sweet wood, leather. The retrohale on this stick is rich with sweet aromas and pepper is minimal, so go for it! In the second half there is a bit more pepper all the way around, but the sweetness is still there, the leather, maybe a little dry chocolate in it too. Towards the last 1.5″ there is more woodiness, more pepper, but the sweet smells and flavors are still there, if dialed back a bit, all the way to the nub. This stick goes all the way! I am impressed!

These sticks pair great with coffee and they don’t get to more than a medium strength so they make a great morning smoke. I’ve been drinking mostly Plantation rums lately (see latest rum reviews) and they all pair well here too, but nothing really pops out at me yet. So far this is a coffee cigar!

Highly recommended! Get them while they’re still available! Here some more about them from Halfwheel….

Cigar Review: Crowned Heads La Imperiosa

Cigar Review: Crowned Heads La Imperiosa

 

Crowned Heads one of my favorite boutique cigar makers. I’m always willing to try something new from them. Many are superb, some only good, this being one of those… But “good” isn’t “bad” right, especially the deal I got on this 50 count box about $185 U.S….

4 3/8″ x 42 Petit Corona

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro
Binder/Filler: Nicaraguan

Construction: Looks good from the outside, dark chocolate wrapper, no soft spots, well packed (dense), nicely capped, no veins, tight seams. Construction seems to be the problematic part of this stick though. Two of six smoked so far were pretty plugged most of the way, while one was OK but not great. I had to tripple-puff most of the time to get any smoke. Puffing like that made them burn hot and flavors disappeared quickly. My draw tools fixed the one that wasn’t too bad to begin with. The other two just weren’t going to work. The other three (so far remember I have a box of 50) had good draws all the way down. Burn lines stayed clean until the last two inches but required only small corrections. These produced good creamy smoke. When they work, they work well. The flavor notes below are all from these. Smoke time on these good ones was just under an hour.

 

Cold Aroma: Strong barnyard, manure, hay, flowers. A nice mix.

Flavor: On the light a burst of pepper, peanut butter roast nutty on the retrohale. The pepper calms down pretty quickly. The cigar is not sweet exactly, but not vegetal either. There is, occasionally, a slight hint of grassy sourness I get from some Dominican cigars, but there isn’t any Dominican tobacco in these… It isn’t a flavor I really like, but it’s never more than a background note here, and in a couple of the sticks it didn’t appear at all. Might have something to do with the pairing. Coffee seems to bring it out, rum to surpress it for a sugary sweetness. If anything I’m reminded a little of the Warped Maestro Del Tiempo reviewed earlier, but that is a much more complex cigar.

As the cigar smokes past the first third it comes across a little sweeter, light brown sugar, wintergreen, more roasted nuts and leather notes mingle. Retrohale stays easy with some sweet burning wood or autumn leaves and more roasted nuttiness. In the last third the pepper comes up, the sweetness dials back, but good tobacco notes stay forward making for an enjoyable smoke. This cigar pairs well with rum. The drier ones seem to being the cigar’s sweetness forward.

Here are two more reviews of the blend (different vitolas), from Cigar Dojo and Halfwheel.

Cigar Review: RomaCraft Neanderthal HOxD

Cigar Review: RomaCraft Neanderthal HOxD

The tobacco blend of the RomaCraft Neanderthal line is strong in both flavor and nicotine. This particular stick was first introduced as a part of the RomaCraft “El Catador” sampler, but now the vitola can be found on its own in boxes of 15. The name as it turns out, “HOxD”, refers to a group of genes discovered in the DNA of Neanderthal remains (LINK TO ARTICLE HERE). They are instrumental in development of Neanderthal arm and leg dimensions — shorter but more powerful than in their Cro Magnon competitors.

Here is what two well known review-sites have to say about the cigar’s strength. The links will take you to the full reviews.

From HalfWheel: “While the blend may seem fairly innocuous at first glance, it’s highlighted by a Pennsylvania ligero affectionately known as “Green River Sucker One,” a potent double ligero that has two to three times the amount of nicotine as any other tobaccos used by RoMa Craft Tobac. The resulting blend is said to be one of the strongest in the RoMa Craft portfolio.”

From Cigar Coop: “The key to Neanderthal’s power is the incorporation of a Pennsylvania Double Ligero leaf in the filler known as Green River Valley Sucker One (GR-S1). This is a regrowth leaf from Pennsylvania broadleaf that has a natural higher nicotine level (between 9% to 13% – significant higher than the 5% – 6% found in Esteli, Ligero).”

These days, this stick comes in at around $8 at the box level. With a generous discount code, mine came in around $6.50, still over my now poor budget, but I had to give them a try…

OK, lets get to smoking…

Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A.

Size: 4″ x 46 “Petite Corona”, but more to my mind a petit robusto.

Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: U.S. Pennsylvania Double Ligero (GR-S1), Nicaraguan (Conega, Jalapa, Pueblo Nuevo, Esteli), Dominican Republic (Olor)
[Filler details courtesy of Cigar Coop!]

This is the same blend as all the Neanderthal line which has three Vitolas, the HN (a figurado 5″x52[head]/56[foot]), SGP (4.5″x52) and the HOxD (4″x46).

Cold aroma: Light barnyard, manure, hay.

Construction: I’ve smoked 4 of these now. The first was plugged most of the way along (even my good draw-tools didn’t work very well), but the other three had perfect draws and even burns all the way along. The wrapper a smooth dark brown, no veins, barely visible seams, firmly packed of medium density.

The most distinct thing to notice about this cigar (the whole Neanderthal line) is the completely flat head. I know smokers who like to cut this off carefully with an Xacto knife or single edge razor blade. I find a punch works fine if you wet the head a bit with saliva and let the tobacco soften up for a half minute. If you don’t do this (I’ve been through several boxes of the SGP in the past so I learned) the cap tends to crack when you punch it. Smoke production is rich and the stick smokes slowly. I get an hour from these little sticks, sometimes a bit more. By-in-large this is one very well made cigar. With that one exception (so far) construction is A+!

Flavors: The stick is very sweet from near its beginning. A little pepper on the back of the tongue. Retro-hale is filled with roasted nuts, sweet woods, leather, and a wintergreen like sweet mint. Most of the flavor of this cigar is in the retro-hale. The sweetness builds more into the first half of the stick. I can feel the strength of the cigar only 3/4″ into it. Nuts, woods, some leather and sweet flowers play around one another. At the beginning of the second half, the sugary sweetness dies back, but the nuts, wood, and leather remain. There is a bit more pepper. Still most of the flavor is in the retro-hale with this one, and the flavors are great an A+ here as well.

Down to the 1/2 these flavors remain, but the cigar is strong enough that sometimes I don’t get this far being dizzy by the last inch. Not always though. You absorb more nicotine through the nose than the mouth and I notice when I retro-hale every (or most every) puff that’s when the stick can dizzy me.

The most interesting pairing so far has been the Hamilton “Pot Still Black”. The rum has something of an over-ripe litchi-fruit note. It is a flavor I don’t really like in the rum, but it really brings out the nut-sweetness in this cigar!

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.