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″!  

Rum Review: Hamilton Demerara River

Rum Review: Hamilton Demerara River

The label on the back of this bottle says: “The bottle of rum in your hand was blended from carefully selected rums distilled and aged up to five years in Guyana then bottled in the U.S. without adding any sugar or other sweetener. The rich dark fruit, spice, smoky wood, and tobacco notes in this rum add a unique flavor to cocktails and Tiki drinks…”

Looking this up on the web it turns out that this rum is bottled from the same blend as the Hamilton Overproof 151 rum but dialled back to a less eye watering 86 proof (43% ABV). It is, presumably, made from molasses extracted from Demerara River (in Guyana) sugar plantations. Why Demerara sugar is so highly prized for rum I do not know, but it is true that all the “Demerara rums” I’ve tried (like El Dorado) are pretty darn good. As it turns out, according to this interesting essay on Demerara rums there is only ONE DISTILLERY (Diamond) in Guyana now and all Demerara-based rums start there. How do they do this? The key (from the linked article above) is: “The challenge for the Diamond Distillery is to maintain the distinctiveness of the many different brands while having them all under one roof. One way they do this is by using a variety of different stills including the only wood stills left in the world.” Here is a link to the Diamond distillery’s page.

So now you know… Let’s get on to the tasting

Color: medium-dark amber, red, orange. Not the darkest rum but on the dark side
Legs: tiny beads coalesce to thick tear drops and run slowly
Aroma: Heavy hit of prune and raisin, slight alcohol, caramel and treacle, apricot, sweet smoke. Very rich aroma, I could delight in this sensory experience a long time.

Flavor: Mixed-up. Light touches of tobacco, light brown sugar, a little oak, dark fruit. Sweet and rich without a lot of flavor separation. Reminds me of a creamier, sweeter version of English Harbour. Flavors are amalgamated and come forward as one delicious offering. Smooth, long sweet finish, a bit of heat rises slowly after the swallow, and sustains itself quite long, the prune-raisin and tobacco in the aroma coming up at the end on the nose and back of the throat. Nice experience!

It is hard to believe that nothing is added to this rum to smooth it. If the oldest rum in the blend is 5 years this seems rather dark in color and the smoothness in it can only come from the blend . Yes, English Harbour is smooth and only 5 years old, but it does have a little sugar in it. This rum is distinctly richer than English Harbour but reminiscent of it. At $24 at my supplier it also competes with English Harbour on price, and while I love that rum and always have some around, I will be adding this Hamilton to my permanent collection as well.

Highly recommended if you are looking for a smooth and easy-going rum to enjoy neat or in cocktails. For your interest here is a link to Hamilton’s Ministry of Rum

For those living in or around the San Francisco Bay Area, here is a link to Bitters & Bottles, my local (South San Francisco) retailer maintaining a superb rum collection!