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.

—————

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.

Cigar Review: My Father le Bijou

Cigar Review: My Father le Bijou

I haven’t posted a cigar review in a while. I am smoking a few sticks not reviewed yet and there are literally dozens, probably hundreds of reviews of this cigar. So why am I reviewing a 10 year old cigar (the le Bijou debuted in 2009) that I’ve been smoking since 2010? The answer is that this cigar illustrates some of the subtlety in the cigar smoking hobby. Some tastes change, some do not.

My taste in rums has changed entirely in the last few years. Rums I loved as little as 3 years ago are now vanished from my collection. There are only 2 rums, El Dorado 15 and Dos Maderas (when I can find it) I drank in years past that I would even consider now. But cigars are another story. Sure my taste has changed. There are dozens of cigars I smoked back in 2010, even down to 2015 that I no longer buy. Some because they have become too expensive, but also many that I enjoyed, even a few boxes worth, and then stopped buying because they weren’t interesting any longer.

Yet unlike the rums, there are quite a few cigars I enjoyed back in 2010 that I still smoke today, or would if most of them had not become so much more expensive. The le Bijou is one of those I still like and while its price has gone up in 9 years, it hasn’t yet priced itself out of my budget.

The le Bijou is released in some eight or more vitolas. Five of them (7 x 50 Churchill, 6 x 52 toro, 4.5 x 50 Petit robusto, 6 1/8 x 52 torpedo, 5 5/8 x 55 robusto grande) are regular production, and three (at least) were special releases made for specific retail outlets (a lonsdale [6.5 x 42], corona gorda [5.5 x 54], and short Churchill [6.5 x 48]), released with varying wrappers. Of all these vitolas, I have smoked only one, this petit robusto! The reason? For one I shy away from larger vitolas generally, and second, all of the others are more expensive. The blend is Nicaraguan puro. Little is said about the specifics of filler and binder but the wrapper is supposed to be a Habano Oscuro which Halfwheel also calls “Pele del Oro”. This is rather confusing so I quote from the HALFWHEEL REVIEW (linked):

“The wrapper on the Le Bijou 1922 was particularly notable as it is known as pelo de oro, or golden hair, which is considered to be the father of the modern corojo wrapper. TobacconistUniversity.org explains that the name references a Cuban varietal that was popular in the early and middle 20th centuries but fell out of favor due to its susceptibility to disease. It was created by combining pelo de oro and Sumatran tobaccos and is regarded as being strong, flavorful and sweet”.

I do not find “Habano Oscuro” and “Pele del Oro” connected anywhere else.. Which is it really?

Wrapper: Habano Oscuro (??)
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraquan

My vitola: 4.5″ x 50 Petit Robusto

Cold Aroma: Manure and barnyard. Rich and heady.
Cold Draw: Same notes as the cold aroma and a little leather

Construction: Always well made, the cigar is of medium weight for its size. Evenly packed, but not dense. With a simple straight cut the draw is always good. When smoked likewise, the smoke is rich and plentiful, though see below. The burn stays pretty even most of the time though I have smoked a few hundred of these and sometimes they do get a little wonky and require correction. These smoke pretty slowly. Takes about an hour to get down to the last inch of it.

Flavors: I have smoked many cigars made by My Father. Most are rich in flavors. The newer “La Opulencia” (see Review) is rich and sweet, but not this one. The le Bijou seems more like an A.J. Fernandez blend. Flavors of hay, flowers, black tea, barnyard, the barest hint of leather, perhaps an occasional hint of roasted nut. All of these flitter in and out of a general flavor of tobacco and mild pepper. The flavors first appear after the cigar is smoked for a few minutes. They come and go as the cigar progresses and do not change very much. They are never more than light hints at what should be a much richer cigar from a company like My Father. While the flavors here follow the cold aroma, that aroma is richer than anything in the flavor of the smoke. The flavors are good, even distinct, but they seem barely there.

My biggest gripe about this cigar is that the flavors often disappear completely in the last inch and a quarter of the stick and the smoke gets hot and flavorless no matter how slow I smoke it. An inch plus is a lot to throw away for a four-and-a-half inch stick. I can take any other My Father cigar and smoke it down to a half-inch before the flavors disappear. The flavors of the le Bijou vanish much earlier than that, though to be fair about one out of three of them remain flavorful down to about three-quarters of an inch.

See new note at end… a big discovery!

This is a big disappointment in a My Father cigar. Perhaps this has something to do with how I buy these cigars. I buy boxes when there are good deals and discounts bringing the price down to $5 or so. Maybe I’m getting boxes that have sat around the warehouse a little too long and this is not one of those cigars that gets better with a lot of age? I keep telling myself not to buy these any more and then another deal comes along and I forget my own advice. This has gone on for years and I’ve probably been through a dozen or more boxes in that time. I do like the way they smoke.

NO, it is not the way I buy them. I have made an important discovery that I cannot believe in the 8 or 10 boxes of these I’ve smoked over the years I had not stumbled on until now.. I’ve often punched these sticks (they take a punch well) or straight cut only a small part of the cap as I do with other cigars. But it turns out if you cut them wide, almost to the end of the cap’s shoulders, they smoke much better, require no or very little correction, and retain flavors down to the last 3/4″!  

Cigar Review: Last Call from AJF!

Cigar Review: Last Call from AJF!

I love it when my favorite blenders put out a low-ball product complimenting their otherwise-always high-ball line. The Illusion Rothchilds is one of those, and also Drew Estate’s Papa’s Fritas. Now we have this one from A. J. Fernandez called Last Call, rolled at Tabacalera Fernandez S.A.

For a long time now I like to vary the sweeter, darker, dry-chocolate variety of cigar flavors with something, well, more woody and less sweet. To my palate, A. J. F. usually fills that bill. I think of these as a “real cigar man’s cigar” but that’s just how it strikes me. I’m smoking a 4.75 x 48 petite robusto, one of my favorite vitolas. Let’s have a look.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

I always wish they would say more about the blend…

Construction: The wrapper is a light to medium brown. The cigar has a folded over closed foot. I like those. Self-toasting when you light it up. Only takes a little flame. Nicely done wrap and cap. Smoked, the burn line stays pretty even throughout. Even I, an inveterate corrector, rarely have to touch it. Lots of smoke, light draw, just right for me. The stick is evenly packed, but not heavy. A. J. gets an A+ for construction.

Cold Aroma: A nice rich mix of barnyard and manure mixed with leather. Heady!

Light it up and get a bit of pepper which quickly settles into the background. Burnt wood, maybe cedar, comes to mind. About a quarter inch in the cigar comes into its own. There is a nice aroma of burning leaves on the retrohale. The burnt wood becomes sweeter. I get an occasional hint of light brown sugar, fresh hay, and leather. It reminds me a lot of the A. J. F. Puro Authentico (a more expensive cigar), but not as sharp, a little more toned down in the tobacco-woody notes.

In its second half Last Call gets a little sharper, the pepper and the cedar notes come back, sweetness retreats but never disappears. I don’t think the stick ever gets past a medium in strength. Most importantly, flavors stay in the mix down to the last half inch as befits a great cigar.

I don’t think this stick is as richly apportioned as either of the last two sticks (Crowned Heads le Careme and My Father La Opulencia) reviewed but it happens to also be $2, about 30%, less expensive! In some ways, I enjoy this sort of cigar flavor as much as the richer variety. This one gets my A+ full thumbs up, especially at its price!

There are a lot of reviews of this cigar. Here is HalfWheel’s and here is one from everyone’s favorite cigar kitten Delicia.