The Quesada Oktoberfest Kurz is a rich, leathery looking cigar with a band sporting the Quesada leaf over a German flag to reflect the cigars heritage and inspiration. First light is done with ease and brings flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, bread, orange peel and dark cocoa, which are partnered with an equally enticing aroma. Rich and meaty, the stubby 4” x 50 Kurz maintains a medium body throughout with a slight malty kick on the back end. Although the Quesada Oktoberfest cigar is a good smoke on its own, it was meant to compliment a good Oktoberfest brew (Paulaner Oktoberfest did the job nicely) and indeed it is a pairing that will not disappoint. Light one up, raise a glass and enjoy the festival of taste that follows. Prost!
Although the Daniel Marshall Red Label is somewhat modestly priced, it still carries with it the high expectations that come with the Daniel Marshall name. This 7” x 48 Churchill looks the part with a beautiful golden Connecticut-shade wrapper adorned with a red and gold band. The draw is ideal and the burn proves to be nearly-perfect for such a long smoke. Cedar tangos with coffee and spice, making for a delightfully flavorful smoke. Starting off mild, the 7” x 48 Churchill gradually develops into a balanced, medium-bodied pleasure cruise. It teases the fringe of full-bodied here and there, but always stays composed. Though it may prove too pedestrian for some, the Daniel Marshall Red Label is a well-made cigar that should be enjoyed anytime with confidence.
This dark scoundrel from the makers of Gurkha is an imposing looking beast with a skulled double white band. First light brings a plethora of flavors dominated by heavy teak wood. This initial flavor never ceases, but does give ground to coffee, spice and nut flavors. The draw is fairly loose with a corresponding uneven burn. The body, meanwhile, meanders along in the medium range for most of the smoke until it kicks in for a rich, full-bodied finish. The 5 ½” x 46 Rogue Rascal is an interesting smoke with some unique flavor combinations, but just cannot shake construction issues. Ultimately the Rogue is decent, but a bit underwhelming.
The 5 Vegas Gold Bullion weighs in at a husky 6” x 60 and with its gold band garnishing a Connecticut wrapper, is as bright as the name implies. A hot and spicy first light gives way to gentle wood and cream nuances that hop about the taste buds, as slight hints of mixed nuts lurk underneath. The construction is fair, if a little loose, and the ash is white and flakey. Flavors of chestnuts, walnuts and a plethora of other nuttiness bullies its way to the forefront as the cigar hits the halfway mark. The Bullion maintains a surprisingly mild character for as much flavor is packed into this nugget, even with a spicier finish that peters out just as it is about to hit its stride. Not a lot of depth with this smoke, but for those wanting a mild yet flavorful cigar at prices far below the going price of actual gold, the Vegas 5 Gold is… wait for it… a gold mine.
Another fine limited run cigar from Padron, the chocolaty box-pressed Family Reserve 85 years Natural has an impeccable draw and construction. The 5 ¼” x 50 sized smoke begins with slight sandalwood and leather tastes that meld with a dash of cocoa and spice to keep it interesting. The burn is beautiful from start to finish, while the ever-developing body manages to ride the middle-of-the-road. Dark roast coffee flavors jump into the spotlight with a sweet bonbon pizazz and the smoke exudes the corresponding aromas. The Family Reserve 85 Years is a genuinely great cigar that is quintessentially Padron: It may not win one over with the first puff, but it will stick in the brain (and taste-buds) long after it is put to rest in the ashtray.
Another example of Sherman’s quest for class and sophistication, the Nat Sherman Sterling features a veiny Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper with a “sterling” band, as well as a matching foot band. Light coffee flavors jump on board with the prevailing cedar profile to get the 5” x 42 Marevas off and running. Pure white ash accompanies a slightly tight construction. This little annoyance does not impede the pleasure though, as the cigar grows in intensity and spiciness. A great find (if not a tad over-priced) that develops a surprisingly rich and lasting character, the Nat Sherman Sterling just might weasel its way into the humidor rotation.
This Vega Fina is another Altadis creation with European sensibilities. The hefty 5” x 56 Sumum is a little harsh to start, but settles into a pleasantly mellow character that rarely tops medium-bodied. Somewhat loosely constructed, the draw is easy with only a slight issue with uneven burn for the first half. Leather and salted nuts are the predominant flavors, while coffee, cedar and cocoa tip-toe across the taste-buds. The contrast between the dark wrapper and beautiful white ash is as pleasing to the eye as is the easy-going character of the smoke. Setting aside the issues with the draw, this is a fine addition to the Vega Fina line and a great “special edition” cigar for the price that has a little something for everyone.
A beautiful Connecticut-wrapped cigar emerges from its white tube unleashing a seductively pleasant scent. The Grand Pearl starts off fairly mild working its way up to medium. Straw and toast kicks it off with sweet cream and cedar catching up at about the hallway point. A somewhat disappointing construction, however, impedes the overall enjoyment of this 6” x 50 Toro’s flavor. The ash clings on for dear life and is easily scattered over tables, beverages and laps with the slightest of movements. Setting aside the flaws, this is not a bad tasting cigar, but other La Perla cigars that sell for half the price of the Grand Pearl are probably better choices for most.
The Man O War Virtue is a tasty looking Connecticut-wrapped cigar. The 5” x 50 Robusto has a tea and straw aroma, with a seemingly good construction. First light brings wood and cream flavors that run the gamut, but are joined on the back end by white pepper. It is a nice, medium-bodied smoke with a fair draw and good flavors that leads to a slightly spicy finish. A nice “morning” cigar with a little extra spice, the Virtue is a very good smoke, but one that probably won’t blow anybody away.
The 6” x 48 Ave Maria Knights Templar is rich and oily in appearance with a beautiful cigar band that instantly drums up images of crusading knights, damsels in distress and derring-do. The cigar has a subtle floral aroma with just a tinge of spice and leather. The draw is easy and the burn is on the loose side. Leather, dry toast and coffee flavors run from start to finish with a slight essence of Belgian chocolate and traces of cinnamon. This medium-bodied Ave Maria is a good middle-of-the-road smoke that does the job and does it well, but just does not separate itself from the pack. There is, however, enough good taste and quality at a fair price to warrant further consideration for permanent space in the humidor.
Mark Twain was and is one the most popular personalities and cigar smokers of all time. Mr. Clemens certainly deserves a cigar in his honor and there have been many attempts over the years, but would he approve of this newest incarnation? Well the giant 8” x 54 No. 3 begins with dry, herbal and toast flavors. It then settles in to a thick oak character with dabs of coffee and spice. The long and pleasantly even burn is tailor-made to settle in on a lazy day with one of Twain’s witty tomes. And like its namesake, this cigar is straightforward and easy-going on the surface, yet will gain complexity the deeper one delves into it. A mild, but flavorful smoke at a decent price: Yes, Mr. Twain would probably approve..
Varina Farms Breakfast Blend cigar seems to be catering to the “morning cup of coffee and cigar” crowd with this stick. The beautiful caramel-colored Connecticut-shade cigar comes wrapped in paper and appears to fit right in with coffee and the morning paper. First light brings a dry wood taste and grassy aroma that slowly gives way to coffee bean, cedar and earth. The ash is white and the draw slightly tight. Bitterness elbows its way into the fold and brings the experience to a halt. With flavors that are good, but never seem to hit their stride and a fairly uneven burn, this 6” x 52 Toro is somewhat disappointing. Being a consistent medium in body with under-achieving flavors, this cigar is perhaps hindered by unreasonable expectations, expectations created by the “Breakfast Blend” moniker. A faint reminder of the old Jamaican Temple Hall cigars, these Varina Farms cigars are pleasant enough for those wanting to escape spicy and bold.
La Perla Habana has always seemed to glide under the radar of the mainstream cigar world, but consistently add smiles to the faces of cigar enthusiasts everywhere. The Black Pearl Morado is no exception. A thickly textured Cameroon wrapper is in itself enticing, but igniting the 5” x 52 Robusto unleashes a tsunami of glorious flavors. Dark roast coffee, cocoa, chestnut, sweet cream and spice buzz about the taste-buds like hyper-charged atoms. A sweet sugarcane taste is left on the lips as the consistently medium-bodied cigar ups the pleasure factor. This is a great little cigar at a reasonable value that should please just about everyone. Smooth, easy-going, yet intensely flavorful, the Black Pearl Morado is a winner.
Davidoff’s newest entry is a beautiful Nicaraguan Puro with a distinctive black band that sets it apart from other white-label Davidoff cigars. An elegant Rosado wrapper surrounds Davidoff’s typical near-perfect construction. First light brings forth earth and leather flavors, that are gradually joined by spice, cocoa and wood. The spiciness moves to the forefront as the body moves assuredly from medium to full. Even burn and white ash stay in perfect harmony until the quick end of this 3.75” x 46 Short Corona. Nice flavor, great construction and Davidoff flair does not, however, raise this cigar above some of its premium Nicaraguan counterparts. The black label is worth a try, though, as it will definitely please many Nicaraguan and Davidoff enthusiasts.
A rich and leathery Mexican-grown wrapper surrounds fragrant Nicaraguan tobaccos of this La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva. Another creation by the Garcia family for Ashton, the Mi Amor Reserva is a true connoisseur’s cigar. Nougat, pepper and wood swirl endlessly together while orange peel and nutmeg linger in the background. Construction of this meaty textured 6.25” x 52 Divino is solid, while the smoke is thick, yet not intrusive. With an ever-increasing body that might chase away some of the uninitiated, the Mi Amor Reserva is a quality smoke for those who want big flavor and body without an repeated sucker-punches the gut.
A bright Connecticut wrapper and Connecticut binder surround the 5” x 50 Cusano “Double Connecticut” 18 Robusto and has a light cedar and spice aroma. The initial light is easily accomplished and brings a flurry of wood, spice and coffee flavors. The body is on the milder side of medium and the draw is light and easy. Nuts and cream are added to the flavors, making for a rather tasty smoke. These flavors are solidly placed from beginning to end, with just enough spice to keep things interesting. This is not an overly complex cigar, but it does have some good flavors and, at a fairly modest price, is great every day option.
The No. 35 is a stubby 4” x 48 and is a classic looking Padron, with a beautiful box-pressed shape and finely textured wrapper. The construction is perfect and begging for fire. The initial flavors of wood and white pepper give way to a complex mix of coffee, nutmeg, cinnamon and oak that envelope the taste-buds, while the richness slithers past medium-bodied and beyond. The burn is gloriously even and the ash is firm and white. This could prove an ideal after dinner cigar, with its amazing array of tastes and layers, to be enjoyed with a fine cognac or single malt whisky. A winner if ever there was one.
At a hefty 7” x 54, the La Traviata Intrepido is built for the long haul. Its leathery appearance and peppery aroma are enticing and the first light is pleasantly easy. The cigar proves that the leather is not just for looks, as an initial leather taste is bathed in flourishes of cocoa, chestnut and spice. A deep chocolaty texture develops, while the body intensifies about halfway through. Splashes of pepper and nougat fill out the finish and leave behind a thick charcoal-scented smoke. The construction was surperb and the burn even all of the way. A good smoke for the money that should please most. Nothing new here, just a solid “relaxing under a tree by a babbling brook” type of cigar. Set aside a chunk of the day and enjoy!
The H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon is fine looking cigar with a cedar wrap that adds to the pleasant pre-light aroma. Using the cedar to light the 6 5/8 x 44 Lonsdale, a sweet cedar and leather taste get things going. A good, firm draw keeps everything in order as pepper and spice join the woody character. An ever-so-subtle sweetness adds to the delight by lingering on the fringe. The flavors run fairly consistent from start to finish with only a slight metallic bitterness towards the end. The ash is a blend of dark grey and white that is solidly placed, while a thickly textured smoke carries a tolerable hickory aroma. Just a shade beyond medium body, the Vintage Cameroon is a good all-around smoke that delivers the goods.
The Connecticut wrapper of this 7” x 54 Churchill is bright and smooth with a lightly sweet aroma. The light comes easy and opens up an effortless draw. Dry straw flavors with a dab of honey emerges first, then gives way to cedar and cream. Smooth and creamy all the way down, the ash rests fairly loose and the aroma has a pleasant freshly cut wood scent. While not the most complex cigar in the world, the Reserve Champagne is a smooth, mild-to-medium smoke that is flavorful, consistent and a pleasure for those in search of an easy-going cigar with lots of taste.
The Graycliff Casiliero Privada is supposedly the rarest of Graycliff cigars, originally available only at the Graycliff Resort. This 5” x 46 Piccolo Extra is a richly textured cigar with a simple, low-key cigar band and leathery aroma. The initial light brings a plethora of flavors, with cocoa and spice leading the way. Nutmeg, cinnamon and coffee also jump in the mix making for a great tasting profile. The enjoyment is dulled, however, by the cigars construction. A frustratingly uneven draw and burn made just keeping the cigar lit a chore. Hoping this was an isolated event, several more Casiliero Privadas were sampled with the same result. Usually one could overlook the flaws to get to the cigars great taste, but being a Graycliff it is severely disappointing. Perhaps others will have better luck and it just might be worth a go to experience the flavors.
The “Red Dot” (as it has become known) 7” x 49 Churchill is wrapped in a pristine Cameroon leaf. The construction is expertly done and seems consistent from head to foot. Upon lighting, the perfect draw slowly peels away layer after layer of flavor. Charcoal and leather start it off, slowly giving way to nutmeg, mushroom, orange spice and toast. Hints of chestnuts and vanilla cream also tease along the way. Some sourness emerges towards the end putting an end to the flavor extravaganza. The Cohiba is not necessarily a super complex cigar, but it is packed with an amazing variety of flavors that somehow complement each other. A great cigar that would earn its own humidor filled to the rim, if not for the inflated price tag.
The Gran Habano Corojo has a thick oily wrapper with a rich aroma. The construction is firm with an even burn and draw. Right from the start hot pepper slaps the tongue silly and continues on. Some leather and oak find their way into the spicy fray, but the pepper dominates. Truly a full-bodied smoke, this 4 ½” x 50 Rothchild is a no-frills “what you light is what you get” type of cigar. The Corojo, although not for everyone, is a good-valued strong smoke for those of a heartier disposition.
Once the aluminum tube is opened, a leafy cedar aroma leaps out with the beautiful Connecticut-seed wrapped 6 ¾” x 45 Vintage Lonsdale. Lighting is a breeze with an easy draw. Cedar and nut flavors start it off and are eventually joined by hints of spice, coffee grounds and sweet cream. These flavors run from start to finish without too much added depth. This is actually a nice departure from more complex cigars with ever-changing profiles. This medium-bodied smoke has salt and pepper grey ash that is loose and flakey. The burn is a bit uneven, but not so much as to hinder the enjoyment. The Fonseca Vintage Lonsdale is a nice smoke for anytime and being in a tube is a great “on the road” cigar.
Pepin Garcia’s influence is seemingly everywhere these days and is found in another fine creation for Ashton. The San Cristobal Elegancia is truly an “elegant” cigar with a beautiful double band and gorgeous Connecticut-seed wrapper. The 6” x 52 Imperial is expertly constructed with a wonderful draw. Flavors of cashews, cream and wood leap out of the first few puffs. These flavors happily maintain throughout the even burn while coffee bean, spice and faint flourishes of sugar cane tease the taste buds. The smoke is surprisingly thick, yet with a pleasant aroma. No single aspect of this cigar may be considered perfect, but the sum of the parts just seems to work. The Elegancia is a cigar that strikes the perfect balance between smooth creaminess and rich flavor. A medium-bodied cigar that will satisfy at all hours of the day in any situation, the San Cristobal Elegancia may not make everyone’s favorite list, but it is definitely one to try.
Made by the Oliva family, the NUB is a cigar short in size, but big in flavor and smoke. This 3.7” x 58 Connecticut-wrapped 358 is an interesting smoke, as it is just getting started where most cigars are winding down. Balsa and dried leaves kick off the flavor that quickly evolves into a mix of cedar, toasted nuts and cream. The large diameter makes for a slow, easy-going smoke that seems to go on and on and on. Mid-way through, a spicy pepper jumps into the fray kicking the body up a notch. A firm draw, however, lessens the effect of this up-in-tempo richness. The size is a nice change of pace, but the flavors just do not mesh as well as they could. The NUB has all the signatures of an Oliva cigar and is definitely tasty, but it does not make the jump into the “must-smoke” category.
The Platinum is a rich-looking smoke with a darker wrapper than its more famous cousins. The draw of this 5 ½” x 44 No. 3 is firm and takes a little extra work getting going. Once the flavors start to poke the taste-buds, toast and nutmeg duel it out while cocoa flitters here and there. Salt and pepper make an appearance, but never hinder the enjoyment of the primary flavors that sit heavily in the mouth. Mesquite builds in the final third just before the medium-bodied stick turns sour, a sourness that could be a result from the tight draw that comes perilously close to needing a re-light. The Platinum is a descent smoke that will surely improve with a larger size, but the No. 3 is not the best of the Montecristo line.
This Corojo Limitada Churchill has a rich, dark leather appearance and at 7” x 50 is stunner. It kicks off with wood, cocoa and spice flavors flowing through the easy draw. The burn is fairly even with loose ash. An easy-to-take roasted nuts and wood aroma swells out of this solid Nicaraguan. Coffee, nutmeg and chocolate flavors swirl into a tornado of taste-bud fantasy, building in intensity towards the midway point. A faint bit of cinnamon and clove add to the ever-changing complexity of the final drive. This Kristoff is a full-flavored adventure, but never overwhelming and is truly a joy to smoke. It was a pleasant surprise to be sure. Highly recommended.
Made by Davidoff, this Avo Classic is a handsome cigar that just screams “creamy” while the aroma entices with hints of cedar and cocoa. The No. 2 is nicely sized at 6″ x 50 and lights easy and even. The initial flavor is a bit grassy with burnt wood, but as it settles in, the smoke turns to a smooth mocha and spice flavor. The burn is consistent as one would expect from Davidoff and the draw is just right. Coffee and cocoa flavors build in strength along the way with a consistent woody character, but this tasty treat never goes beyond mild-to-medium. Café Mocha wrapped in a Connecticut-shade leaf, it is a lighter, but flavorful cigar that will satisfy most looking for an easy-going smoke. The Avo Classic is a great accompaniment to that first cup of joe in the morning.
Not the prettiest cigar in the world, the Diamond Crown Maximus does, however, have the pedigree for greatness. The blotchy wrapper leaf is accompanied by a colorfully busy cigar band. Lighting up this 6 3/8” x 50 Pyramid was easy and the draw easier still. Charred wood and toast are the first flavors to hit, but gradually evolve into more pleasant range of spices. Pepper and hints of cocoa find their way to the palate, while the strength builds from medium to full-bodied. A slight sourness joins in the last third, as the oils begin to funnel down the pyramid. A somewhat underwhelming cigar, the Maximus is a good smoke that should be a whole lot more. The Maximus will be a favorite for some who want rich and spicy, but considering its lineage and price, there will also be those who are sorely disappointed.