Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Las Calaveras Smoking

Sometimes I’m at a lose for words, rare I know, but it does happen. And such is the case on the cigar I am writing of today, Las Calaveras. After 30 years of smoking cigars I sometimes feel jaded, not looking for a new big win nor finding many surprises in new cigars, and that is my fault due to oversight and low expectations at times. But when I tried Las Calaveras, I felt a little ashamed of myself and found my cigar palate enamored by its flavor. I picked up several from my shop for a long weekend as I would finally have some me time and time to just relax. As of late free time has been non existent so this felt like a luxury. I had two full days off so the next morning after I awoke, I fixed breakfast for my wife and I as it was a Saturday morning. After home made omelets, we poured coffee and walked out to the deck to enjoy the morning. She selected one of her favorites and I picked up on of the Las Calaveras cigars I had brought home. This is a nice and dark cigar, some veins but nothing obtrusive, just the great look of the leaf. The feel of the cigar in the hand is good, subtle yet you can notice the sheen from the slight oils. As she has already started enjoying her cigar, I used my Xikar and make fast work, torching up the foot. Once lit, the first thing noticed was a burst of flavor that reminds me closely of black strap molasses and spice. This continued for about one fourth of an inch, then the cigar shifted. 

The first part of the cigar brought a velveteen smoothness with a hearty hard wood and black strap combo that delighted the palate. Soon into the first part of the cigar, you could detect a slight citrus flavor far in the background but yet noticeable with the flavors being given. This is not an average cigar, this cigar delivers to the palate a cavalcade of flavor that erupts in a non stop flood of torrential complexity that keeps your attention yet soothes the mind.

As I move into the second part of the cigar, I am perplexed yet enticed as hints of toasted French bread begin to unfold in the myriad of flavors being produced. There is also a slight saltiness that I assume comes from the toasted bread that appears, making the taste buds salivate in glorious expectation of the next draw from the cigar as hints of cayenne appear. This has become a hearty cigar, with flavors that satisfy the palate and leave no dull wonderment as to what is being derived in the smoke.

Moving into the final part of the cigar, the French toast and black strap, mixed with a dose of tangy spice, make for a velvety yet smooth smoke that coats the oral factors with a rich essence of tobacco that has been carefully cared for and blended. As the cigar begins to draw to a close, a noticeable spike in the intensity of the flavors is amply noticeable with a rush of exuberant spice, slight saltiness and the essence of the hard wood and molasses combining in a theatrical performance that dances upon the palate.     

I hated for this cigar to end so I was more than pleased I had brought extra home. The Las Calaveras from Crowned Heads is a crowning achievement in blending and construction, and if I may be so bold and use a baseball term, has hit it completely out of the park. 

If you have yet to try this cigar, search for it diligently at your local B&M. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in the slightest.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Jericho Hill

There are times when I want to escape the world and just lean back and think, to walk down the halls of my thoughts and memories. I envision our minds as vast corridors lined on each side with doors, each containing specific times in our lives. Sometimes I believe we need to travel down those corridors long forgotten, thoughts and memories that are vague and almost empty and void. Who knows, some pleasantry may be hidden or some word that would be useful today. 

Its been about an hour since I closed the shop, doors locked and everything where it should be. I took a cigar from my stash to enjoy tonight and selected the new Jericho Hill from Crowned Heads. This cigar presents itself understated but yelling loudly. Slightly boxed pressed, with a wrapper that carries a very dark and sturdy appearance plus the feel in your hand show the grand tooth this leaf carries. The band is delightfully understated and simply, yet perfectly fitting the look of the cigar.

I walked out to our deck on the back of the store, and deciding to leave the big screen off, sat in a chair that over looked the parking lot and stores. I propped my feet up in a small chair and took a deep breath of the night air, relaxing for the first time today. Once I V cut the cap, I gave it a cold draw, which produced some nice wood and spice with that wonderful flavor of well aged tobacco.
Once lit, the flavor starts immediately with a succulent pepper spice followed on its heels by smoky hard wood and a very mild sweetness that lingers. Working into the first third, the spice and wood have begun a magical dance upon the palate, with the smoke being thick and velvety, almost creamy in the mouth. The sweetness I was detecting now has shown more and reminds me of black strap molasses cookies my mother used to make all those years ago. With each draw the cigar give abundant smoke and the aroma plays around the nostrils. I lean back enjoying the cigar greatly, watching start trying half heartedly to peek from behind small clouds. I wonder down a corridor of thought and remember those cookies she made and how the house would smell of the sweetness from the molasses.  

Moving along I soon reached the second third, and here with the wood, spice and black strap working in sublime unison, other delicate nuances are starting to show. Stout coffee notes begin to enter as it reminds me of coffee and chicory made in an old two piece pot on a gas stove in old New Orleans at my Grandmothers house. I remember when I was ten and we would go down there, you would get up early for coffee and doughnuts, and listen to the sounds of the plants working across the street. The stout coffee notes are working so well with the wood and spice as the black strap fades just a touch.

 In to the final third and finish, the cigar shows the expertise of its blend, with each flavor working together yet showing itself in turn one from another. The combination invigorates the senses for each draw as you watch you thoughts play out in the clouds of smoke it produces. Toward the close, the spice ramps ever so slightly but not as to over power the smoky dark wood now flowing nor the slight sweetness that wraps itself around the combination. The finish of the cigar gave stronger hits of chicory and spice which made me want another.

The Jericho Hill from Crowned Heads is a grand mouth watering cigar that draws back an with out apology knocks it out of the park. Try these soon, see what you taste, what you gather from it, for in reality that’s all that matters.
Also if you don't have time for a long smoke, try the new Jericho Hill Shots. Perfect short smoke with tons of flavor.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Perdomo Double Aged Vintage

We finally got these cigar into the shop today, and as I have been waiting upon their arrival before posting this review, the timing is excellent. 

Perdomo Double Aged Vintage was shown at this years IPCPR and they are beauties. The plan by Perdomo Cigars is to first release the Connecticut Wrapper version and with an October release of the Sungrown, soon followed in December by the Maduro version. Having received samples I was ecstatic to try them and my expectations were well taken care of. This is a limited cigar with only 240,000 made of each wrapper and only 250 stores in the U.S. will have them and Havana Smoke Shoppe is proud to be one. The cigars will come in only four sizes as follows:

Gordo Extra at 6.5x60
Churchill at 7x56
Epicure at 6x56
Robusto at 5x56

For the Connecticut wrapper the blend is intriguing,

Wrapper - Ecuador Connecticut
Condega Seco
Jalapa Viso
EstelĂ­ Ligero

Appearance and cold draw:
The cigar carries a band that is truly Perdomo, from the logo to the choice of colors the band gives due accolade to the time of preparation of the tobaccos for this cigar. The Connecticut wrapper has a satin tooth to it and the roll, while feeling firm, has a perfect draw once clipped. The pre light draw is indeed intriguing as it gives hints of syrup and earth with a nice woodiness backing it up.

Once lit the cigar wastes no time in pleasing the palate. It begins with a somewhat expected nice spice hit at the start with and a undercurrent of light wood behind it. Shortly into the fist third I am reminded of French bread toasted in the oven coated in butter and blending this with a slight spice and occasional flavors of parched nuts makes it delightful. The fact that the tobacco is aged for two years in bourbon barrels is evident as you receive that ever so slight ting on your palate from the contents which is a very succulent addition to the flavor.  

Second third:
Moving into this third of the cigar the smoke is plentiful and the aroma most pleasing. The spice is still present but more secondary at this point. The buttery toast too is also there and it is now also giving a very nice creaminess to the feel of the smoke upon ones palate. The earlier mention syrup of the pre light draw now comes to play as a more peanut brittle affair in recognition. These flavor working in grand unison show the expertise of the blend as it also adds hints of light earth.

Last third and finally:
The final third of the cigar shows the continuation of the flavor of the second but with the spice becoming more of a black pepper melody and the wood picking up. The smoke continues to be creamy smooth and abundant as it comes to a close with a mild surprise of aged leather. 

The Perdomo Double Aged Vintage Connecticut continues to show the dedication of Perdomo in the excellence of blending, construction and choice of tobaccos when formulating a new line. It does not matter if you’re a die hard Perdomo fan or not, this cigar is one that should be tried and not over looked. For myself, I think I have room in a humidor for several.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ortega Cigars Wings for Warriors

Everyone who smokes cigars knows who Eddie Ortega is.  If you don’t, then you need to get out there and try some of his cigars. I would start with the Ortega Serie D Maduro; it's a great smoke at a good price.

Eddie is always trying something new, whether it’s a offering a big cigar at a great price (Heavy Duty), bringing back one of his classics (Cubao), showing respect by making 12 different cigars for 12 different people in the business (Wild Bunch), or unleashing his last project simply named "The Ortega Project" which was geared towards a personalized experience for his customers.

One thing people may not know about Eddie is that he proudly served as a US Marine. This explains his newest project and what I think may be one of the best things I have ever seen any cigar manufacturer do: he is making a Wings for Warriors cigar.

Wings for Warriors http://wingsforwarriors.org/  is a volunteer driven 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designed to help ensure that combat wounded Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans returning home, or transitioning into the realm of their disabilities are getting the adequate healthcare and financial benefits that they deserve.

Their mission is to provide necessary tools, insights and resources for wounded veterans as they go through the recovery process and transition into new realities. Among the services and activities they support include: guidance and counseling to secure healthcare and legal benefits, travel assistance for immediate family members to visit wounded love ones, and public awareness events and programs to highlight the unique challenges the wounded warriors face.        

Eddie had toyed around with the concept of creating a brand based around the armed forces and using profits to support the Veterans, the only missing piece was an organization with whom he could team up with. During this time Eddie was introduced to Wings For Warriors by his friend Charlie Banranyi, at Charlie's annual event for Wounded Warriors, who put him in touch with Anthony Doc Ameen the founder of Wings For Warriors.

The result: 50% of all profits from the sale of these cigars will go to Wings for Warriors! As you can see from the artwork for the bands there will be one cigar for each branch of the military. The blend will be the same for all four cigars with the difference being the size of them. The blend is not finished yet, but they are expected to come in boxes of 20 with a slide top.

The cigars will be sold directly from Ortega cigars website http://www.ortegacigars.com/ and Eddie will see if any retailers want to carry them, provided they understand a percentage goes to Wings for Warriors. (This is included in the price.)

Hopefully, they will be ready to ship by the end of September. Of course, you don’t have to wait until then to help out with Wings for Warriors. Check out their website for ways to donate to this amazing cause. Don't miss the events section: coming up on August 9th they are having a Quad State Herf 9 Cigar Fundraiser. Sounds like it's going to be a great event. Check the website for more details.

Keep a look out for the cigars on Ortega's website and hopefully at a B&M close to you by the end of September. For the men and women who have fought for this county, this will be the most important cigar you will ever buy.

Frank Flores