Photographs by Jeff Schnorr
Summertime is for relaxing with friends, and there's nothing friendlier than a tasty smoke. We reviewed two of the most popular sizes in the country in this review - Churchills and Robustos - as well as two sizes worthy of more attention than they get - Lonsdales and Panatelas. You'll find some old friends as well as some new acquaintances like Napa, Golden Sun, and Cupido. We also increased the number of cigars reviewed for your smoking pleasure, so get your pals together, fire up the grill, and get busy relaxing!
"The value of a good cigar is best understood when it is the last one you posesss and there is no chance of getting another" - Count Otto Von Bismark
The proliferation of the cigar market has produced a host of entries into the ultra-premium market, many of them unjustifiably so. Fortunately, that is not the case with these smokes. Rather than spread themselves thin by producing a complete line of smokes, the Cupido Cigar Co. focused on one size, the Churchill, and went from there. Produced in a first run of 66,000 boxes, these Sumatra-wrapped beauties are sure to delight any palate. Ranging from medium- to full-bodied, the Cupido is at the same time smooth and spicy, so you may want to wait until after dinner to try one of these superior smokes. Highly Recommended.
The Platinum line from Caoba is a shining picture of smooth flavor, right down to the tasty Connecticut shade wrapper. Solidly constructed and medium-bodied, the cigar has a smooth and spicy flavor profile that will delight fans of Dominican flavor, as it did our panelists. Smokers who enjoy heavier smokes will appreciate the softened woodiness of the Caoba earlier in the day, whereas connoisseurs of milder smoke might like to wait for an after-dinner drink before lighting up one of these bad boys. Whatever time you pick to light one of these smokes, one thing is certain - you will enjoy them. Recommended.
CRUZ REAL No. 14
Cruz Real's south-of-the-border beauties were widely enjoyed by our panelists, and well they should be. A true Mexican puro, the Cruz Real features a perfect blend of filler and binder from the San Andres Valley capped off by a Mexican-grown Sumatran-seed wrapper, producing a very flavorful, medium-bodied smoke.
LA GIANNA Churchill
Few of the cigars in our review received as many glowing compliments from our panelists as did the La Gianna, even from smokers whose palates tend to lean more toward the heavy side. Mild and slightly spicy and sweet, the flavor profile of these high-quality Honduran cigars is best enjoyed before dinner, which gives you almost all day to enjoy these flavorful, straightforward smokes. Once you've had one, you'll be glad you decided to spark up these angelic smokes.
ESTEVAN REY Premium
After an excellent run of making cigar accessories such as the Cigar Savor and the Desktop Vertical Humidor, it's about time Cigar Savor Enterprises started making something to put in them. Panelists thoroughly enjoyed these rustic styled smokes for their bold and spicy flavor profile, though there were some comments about a lack of complexity. Don't be intimidated by the rough and rugged wrapper on these smokes, its bark is worse than its bite.
For fans of the smooth, mellowed tones of a fine Honduran smoke, it simply doesn't get any better than the Zino line. With a medium-bodied flavor that is at the same time both creamy and spicy, these are transcendent smokes, perfect for any time of the day, but preferably when you're trying to make your smoking buddies jealous. One whiff and they'll all be trying to get on your good side so they can get their hands on the ones you've got in your humidor. Maybe its time you had your box outfitted with a lock. Recomended.
ROMEO Y JULIETA Vintage IV
The trick to smoking a Romeo y Julieta Vintage cigar is actually finding one. These sublime smokes are made in extremely limited supply, due in part to the amount of time the tobacco is aged and fermented before rolling. The result is a finely balanced and complex smoke with distinguished notes of wood, spice and earth. If you don't like these, you just don't like cigars. When your are able to find these sticks, snatch up as many as your tobacconist will let you; your tastebuds will thank you later. Highly Recommended.
Our panelists were split down the middle with the Garo: some enjoyed the very mild peppery and salty qualities that are prevalent in these smokes; while others equated this to a long-distance flight delayed on the runway - they kept waiting for it to take off. Blended from Cuban seed Dominican long filler, Dominican Olor binder and a honest-to-God Connecticut shade wrapper, the Garo is an exceptionally mild smoke.
BB LOS REYES Don Miguel
One of our panelists said these were like a light-switch: When they're on they're an illuminating smoke, when they're not, well, they're off. Becher Bayzid has been producing these Dominican puros since 1952 with very limited distribution, and now they are available nationwide. A classically mild Dominican smoke, the BB Los Reyes offer consistently earthy tones and can be easily enjoyed by anyone looking for good flavor without the heavy, in-yer-face body
FELIPE GREGORIO Suntuoso
Few brands were rated as consistently by our panelists as the Felipe Gregorio. The Suntuoso is a beautifully crafted cigar, and you may find it increasingly difficult to put it down as you smoke it. Starting mild and slightly woody, these sticks become full-bodied by mid-smoke, revealing tons of earthy, matured spice on each near perfect puff. If you're looking for an excellent special occasion smoke, this is it thankfully, they're priced moderately enough that you could justifiably smoke them every day. Highly Recommended.
When people tell you that the Vargas is a regal smoke, they're not kidding. Re-introduced to the smoking public last year, the Vargas has traditionally been the official smoke of the King of Spain, with three percent of production reserved for his highness each year. Panelists were intrigued by the flavors imparted from the Sumatran wrapper, though some were overpowered by the strong, earthy flavor profile. The Vargas is easily enjoyed any time a big smoke is in order, but we recommend smoking them with a tumbler full of hard, brown liquor. Smoooooth. Recommended.
If you're anything like us, and we suspect you are, you divide your stogies into two piles: the ones you share and the ones you don't. After smoking just one sample of these fine Mexican sticks it was apparent which pile that these were destined for, and our panelists agreed. Finely balanced and mild from the start, the Cascada develops into a robust flavor rocket that exhibits beautiful tones of spice and pepper. You'll have to go get your own, however, because we're not sharing.
All of our panelists agreed that for a light-bodied, straightforward smoke, the Orient-Express 2140 is your ticket to ride. While some panelists felt these cigars were a bit too mild, and noted some flavor inconsistency, others simply loved them. The mild and slightly spicy flavor profile of these smokes won't overwhelm initiates to Honduran flavor. The draw is occasionally inconsistent, but don't let that stop you if you're up for a cool, mellow smoke. Just don't expect the mystery of an Agatha Christie novel.
THOMAS HINDS Nicaraguan Selection
Some Canadians consider Thomas Hinds responsible for opening up the Cuban cigar market in Toronto - maybe even in the whole of Canada. Hinds has gotten out of the Cuban game to concentrate on his premium Nicaraguan and Honduran Selection cigars. The Nicaraguan filler and binder capped off by a smooth Ecuadorian wrapper, highlights a spicy, medium- to full-bodied smoke. These cigars bum clean, even and unusually slowly, showing great character throughout the entire smoke.
CARLOS TORAN0 Carlos VI
Carlos Torano's Carlos IV could very well be the Charles Atlas of the cigar world, since smoking one of these heaters on the beach would definitely make a bully who found you think twice about kicking sand in your face. The beefy Connecticut wrapper surrounding the steel-belted Mexican binder and adrenaline-juiced Dominican filler, pack a big wallop if your palate is too wimpy. Do yourself a favor and buy yourself a "palate of steel" video so you too, can begin to enjoy the full-bodied flavor of these Dominican sticks.
ULTIMATE DOMINICAN Churchill
Our panelists loved these well-rounded', full-bodied Dominican puros - yes, we said puros that are truly worthy of the name Ultimate. Starting off mild and slightly spicy, they develop into a robust, full-bodied smoke with complex and even flavors. These are great smokes any time of the day, but smoke these when you have a bit of down time to yourself. Otherwise, all your friends will be rooting through your humidor to get their hands on them. Highly Recommended.
Excellent construction and smooth, mellow tones are the hallmark of this regal smoke, making the Regalos a great cigar for any smoker. Initiates to the maduro will appreciate the subtle creaminess that doesn't overpower; while the experienced maduro toker will enjoy the medium to full-bodied flavor the Regalos imparts as it smokes. Recommended.
PHEASANT by RD GOMEZ Robusto
When it comes to leather accessories,, Pheasant by RD Gomez is the standard by which all other competitors gauge themselves. Gomez has taken that same commitment to excellence to his line of Honduran cigars, and soon everyone will be ponying up to see how he does it. Rich, creamy notes with an undercurrent of pepper are the highlight of these smokes, and our panelists hadn't a single ill word to say about them. Enjoy them now or save them for later; you won't be disappointed. Recommended.
INDIAN TABAC CO. Boxer
If consistency is a quality you enjoy in a tasty smoke, then you'll really enjoy Indian Tabac Co.'s robusto, the Boxer. Unique in its being Indian's only offering without a Native American-themed name, the Boxer upholds the standard of quality that the boys over at Indian insist upon. Well-rounded and supple, the Boxer's notes of spice and wood are a true one-two punch combination. This cigar is a knockout. Highly Recommended.
New to the North American smoking public this year, the Valdrych line is a Dominican puro artfully constructed from blended Dominican Olor and Piloto Cubano leaves, which was originally marketed in the U.K. The success of these medium-bodied smokes brought them to our side of the Pond, and smokers can expect wood and spice with just enough zip to keep you on your toes. They're jolly good!
ROYAL SATIN Generation I
The Generation I is the brainchild of Cigar Club International president Sidney M. Gottlieb, and of the 840,000 sticks he started with about 360,000 remain. Found in very limited release in Southern California, this smoke's blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan filler, Dominican binder, capped by a Connecticut seed, Ecuadorian wrapper, offers a lively medium-bodied smoke that will delight smokers of any palate. Try smoking these during the cheese course at a fine French restaurant. Recommended.
RAMON ALLONES Specially Selected
Not everyone is ready for the heavy-duty flavors that the Ramon Allones Specially Selected robustos impart, but if you are looking for a superlative postprandial smoke, this is it. Very earthy and woody without wrap ping itself around your neck like a hangman's noose, the Ramon is positively impressive. Still, it bears the hallmark of many well-crafted Havanas and it does not pull any punches. If you're looking for something mild, try something else. Highly Recommended.
ROYAL JAMAICA Robusto
There aren't many manufacturers out there producing high-quality smokes at low, low prices, but thank the gods that Royal Jamaica is still up to the task. Medium-bodied and packed with flavor, you may find yourself smoking these down to a teeny little stump that burns your fingertips while you smoke it. No matter though, break out a toothpick and keep on puffing until you can't puff no more. At $3.50 a stick, you can afford to smoke them whenever you want, so grab 'em when you see 'em; you'll be thanking us later. Highly Recommended.
HAVANA SUNRISE Robusto
The only thing smoother than a Havana Sunrise is a big glass of Patron Anejo tequila on the rocks, so you might as well try them both at the same time and find out for yourself. Panelists were so rapt by this robusto's easy draw and cool, mellow smoke, that few failed to demand the identity of these sticks when handing in their "homework." You'll find that this cigar exhibits mild floral tones upon lighting, then blasts off into a robust, medium- to full-bodied smoke worthy of its own parade. Recommended.
FAT CAT Robusto
The Fat Cat left some panelists with a Cheshire-like grin on their faces, though all noted that this cigar's appearance was a little rough around the edges. The strength of these smokes, which overwhelmed other panelists, comes from the Indonesian wrapper, bound around a well balanced Dominican binder and filler. Still, for a lively smoke at a reasonable price, this could be the purr-fect cigar for you.
The strength of the Astral didn't intimidate our panelists, nor will it those looking for a quick and hefty Honduran burner. Medium-bodied and smooth, these cigars are sure to please, complementing a backyard barbecue perfectly. The Ecuadorian wrapper and binder around the Honduran and Nicaraguan filler give these cigars their zesty little kick, so try one on the back porch with a mint julep, and you're ready to roll.
LA NATIVE Rothchild
Panelists were enthralled with the mild-smoking La Natives, and as for value, you won't find a better one in this review. More than one of our reviewers smoked these well-rounded Honduran heaters until they singed their lips and fingers, so keep a couple toothpicks on hand. And for a little more than $2.55 a pop, you might as well smoke them every day Slightly earthy and a little woody, the La Natives are a tasty treat.
GOLDEN SUN Robusto
A combination of Nicaraguan and two-year-old Dominican Piloto filler, an Indonesian binder and an aged Connecticut shade wrapper, give the Golden Sun robustos a rich complexity and smooth, even burn seen in few cigars in this price range (approximately $5-7 per stick). This cigar will be appreciated by the beginner, but more appreciated by experienced smokers who seek rich tobacco flavor that will not overwhelm the palate. Highly Recommended.
LA TRADICION CABINET SERIES Robusto
Every single one of our panelists marveled at this smoke's top-shelf construction, from the near seamless wrapper to the solid ash that hung on like Charles Bukowski to a barstool. Fans of milder smokes will enjoy these, but don't expect a flavor train to roll through town while you're smoking them. Even-handed and smooth, the La Tradicion delivers a pleasant, straightforward smoke from tip to tail.
DON BARCO Capitan
Introduced last year, the Don Barco line follows a maritime theme, offering the Admiral, Galeon and the Marinero in addition to the Capitan, for those who pine for the high seas while lighting up. Medium-bodied and cool smoking pleasure are the hallmarks of the Don Barco, though some panelists complained of a slightly tight draw on a few samples.
Richly enjoyed by our panelists, these medium- to full-bodied smokers owe their rich and creamy flavor profile in part to a smooth, satiny Ecuadorian wrapper. The Defiant offers an excellent draw and cool smoke, with each stick throwing off billowing clouds of complex, flavorful smoke with each puff. Stick a couple of these in your humidor and start your own personal revolution. Recommended.
LA AURORA Robusto
La Aurora has been a picture of quality since 1903, when Guillermo Leon's grandfather started this line of super-premium cigars. The blend wasn't perfected until 1942, and now, 55 years later, the La Aurora is a very serious stick. Medium-bodied and robust from the outset, these smokes develop full-bodied tobacco flavors with enough zing for everyone to enjoy. In addition to flavor, you'll find comfort in these Dominican sticks; light one up at the end of a tough day and settle back with the sunset. Highly Recommended.
ESCUDO CUBANO Gran Corona
The deep, dark, chocolatey brown wrappers of the Escudo Cubano's immediately caught the attention of our panelists, and they were not disappointed in smoking them. Medium-bodied and smooth, these Indonesian wrapped stogies smoke slow and cool, so set aside at least an hour before you light up.
NAPA CIGAR CO. Lonsdale
The mellow and complex tones of the Napa Cigar Co.'s Dominican blend was not lost on our panelists, even if they weren't able to enjoy the irony of recommending them with a glass of hearty red wine. Blended by Robert M. Mondavi, Jr., grandson of the famous vintner of the same name, this Dominican selection offers a very rich and well rounded smoke with enough varying flavors to make you want to smoke them back to back to back. Uncork a bottle of red Bordeaux, spark up one of these heaters and see how long it takes for you to forget your troubles. Estimated time: 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Highly Recommended.
The light-body and creamy flavor profile of the Cimero delighted our panelists, who historically have tended to be a little hard on the milder smokes. These sticks are beautifully constructed and packed with the subtle, mellow flavors typical of Dominican filled, Connecticut shade wrapped smokes. If you're out looking for an effortless, cool smoking, even-handed cigar, this may be your best bet.
The Maxius line made its big public debut at last year's Sundance Film Festival wrap party, with great success. These medium- to full-bodied cigars smoke with very pronounced tobacco flavors, though some of our panelists noted some minor draw problems that generally righted themselves at mid-smoke. Enjoy these well-constructed smokes after a midday burger or with a smooth Speyside malt.
FONSECA No. 1
Easily the mildest of all the Havanas, this cigar is one of a line that Francisco Fonseca originally developed in 1906 to complement his line of superior port wines. Even novice palates will enjoy these Cubans (if the smokers are able to leave the U.S. to smoke them), as the fresh, floral and woody notes never overpower the senses. Produced in the same factory as the El Rey del Mundo Habanas, the Fonseca is a perfect smoke for initiates to Cuban flavor, but still complex enough for experienced palates to enjoy-
PARTAGAS 8-9-8 (varnished box)
Partagas makes two versions of the 8-9-8: the stronger, full-bodied varnished-box variety measures 6.75" x 43, and the lighter smoking unvarnished-box version measures 6" x 42. There were some problems with construction, however, as noted by our panelists: wrappers splitting, one or two plugs and the occasional uneven burn suggests that the Partagas factory may be pushing these smokes off the rolling floor a little quickly. Still, when they're not being temperamental, you can expect a flavor rocket the size of Apollo 11.
FLOR DE LOS REYES Lonsdale
The Flor de los Reyes Lonsdale lacked the consistency in construction that would make it a truly superior smoke. However, some panelists noted that despite the rustic, "ugly duckling" wrapper, these medium bodied Dominican smokes exhibited some character and became more robust as they smoked. Since we know looks aren't everything, if you are looking for a mild and subtle cigar, give these a try.
ROMEO Y JULIETA Corona Grandes
The rich and complex character of these Havanas, from the originator of the Churchill size, was very favorably received by our panelists. The distinct Cuban flavor of these gran coronas (which, incidentally is a lonsdale for all intents and purposes), was as easily spotted as a Shoney's on I-70. Sultry and very spicy, if you smoked these on an empty stomach, they might rip through you like a red-hot buzz saw, so don't attempt one until after dinner. Recommended.
One of the lighter-bodied smokes in our review, the Diamante offers light spice and mild pepper tones which are easily enjoyed by beginners and experts alike. One thing that all smokers can appreciate, however, is that, according to the manufacturers, plans are in the works to lower their already low prices. So, if you're looking for a mild, tasty smoke with integrity, look no further.
The excellent construction and deep rich flavors of this Princess delighted our panelists across the board. The smooth spice and a robust woodiness generated by these supple Dominican sticks perfectly complement the satiny wrapper, and for a cigar that retails between $4 and $5, this one is hard to beat. Mild- to medium-bodied, these cigars are a tasty treat perfect for a night of stargazing or hanging out at your neighborhood block party. If you bust one of these out at a block party, however, be sure you've brought extras, because one whiff and everyone will want a stick. Recommended.
This dreamy smoke from Romanticos might leave you with a heightened sense of prurience, with its sweet, lusty flavors and satiny notes. Some panelists adored the top-notch construction of the amorous Romanticos, while others were passionate about the creamy texture of these particularly voluptuous Dominican smokes.
The beautifully silky wrapper is an enticing reason to smoke these smooth Dominican smokes, and our panelists found this cigar to be pleasingly complex and effortless to burn. The unique die-cut band exposes a leaf-shaped portion of the Connecticut shade wrapper on these medium-bodied smokes. Bum one of these with your smoking klatch and you'll be the envy of all of them. They are characteristically mild- to medium-bodied with a gentle, fleeting finish - you may find these the perfect ending to a sumptuous seafood meal.
ARMENTER RESERVA No. 4
The mild spice and faint saltiness fooled two of our panelists into thinking they were smoking Dominican, but, if anything, this is a testament to the quality of these mellow smokes from the Canary Islands. Light bodied and vaguely floral, the Armenters are an excellent complement to a hoppy beer on a hot summer day, so spark up, kick back and enjoy.
THIRD MILLENNIUM Preludio I
Solid Dominican flavor is what our panelists discovered when they sampled the Preludio I's from Third Millennium, a new entry to the market this year. Mild and spicy, these light-bodied smokes run slightly long for lonsdales, but who's counting? Two of our reviewers experienced mild burning problems, but the vast quantities of thick, flavorful smoke quickly diverted their attention. Smooth and easy, the Preludio I is a good smoke for those who prefer the lonsdale size, but wish it would stick around a little longer.
LA FLOR DE LA ISABELLA Coronas Largas
Rolled in the same factory as Splendid Seed Tobacco Co.'s Fighting Cock brand, the La Flor de Isabella line has re-emerged this year with its own special blend of leaf. Our panelists found these smokes to burn a little on the mild side, but each noted the solid construction and excellent draw of the Philippines' newest offering. Mild-bodied and exhibiting a slight - saltiness that is the hallmark of Pacific flavor, these smokes are a cool, exotic change from the wide variety of Caribbean smokes on the market.
SIGNATURE COLLECTION Lancero
Panatelas are the most frequently misunderstood size of cigar made, and the Signature Collection is taking great steps to change those opinions. These medium-bodied and slightly grassy smokes from Caribbean Cigar Co. smoke amazingly cool and even for such a small ring gauge cigar, as all of our panelists quickly found out. Panatelas can be the most problematic of all the varied sizes, thanks to the thin gauge and length, but such is not the case with this chic stick. This long panatela features an ever so tasty Ecuadorian wrapper around Cuban-seed Dominican, Honduran and Nicaraguan tobaccos, producing a very complex and enjoyable smoke for any time of day. Recommended.
The entire Pleiades line of smokes are appropriately named for various astral bodies, and most of our panelists found these heavenly smokes to be light and spicy. (The Pleiades, incidentally, are named for the seven daughters of Atlas who were turned into stars.) The Connecticut shade wrapper on Dominican binder and filler exudes tons of classic Dominican flavor on these cool smoking, elegant sticks; and the conveniently humidified cedar boxes they are sold in make these a unique and thoughtful smoke. Burn one while you reflect upon a nice, cool glass of India Pale Ale.
JUAN CLEMENTE Panatela
Aside from the signature banding of the foot of the cigar to prevent wrapper splitting, the trademark taste of the Juan Clemente is medium to full-bodied with lots of robust spice. Some panelists noted a slightly hot bum on these pencil-thin smokes, but that shouldn't deter you from trying one of the larger tastes of the thin cigar world. Spark one of these while you're walking off that big Mexican meal.
SELECTO PURO DOMINICANA Panatela
Panelists were so absolutely floored by the robust, creamy spiciness in each tasty draw of these smooth smoking Dominican cigars that they were practically busting down our doors to find out what they were smoking and where they could get their hands on some. Medium- to full-bodied and very well-balanced, these smokes are just as at home on your back porch with you in shorts and a T-shirt, as they are at the baccarat table in Monte Carlo. If your local smokeshop doesn't carry them, stage a sit-in until they do. Recommended.
EL REY DE FLOREZ Panatela
Constantly innovating and developing new blends, the Flores brothers have developed yet another exciting blend in their all-Dominican El Rey de Florez' cigars. Spicy and subtly sweet, you'll take one puff on this elegant smoke and demand to be introduced to the rest of this superb line. You won't be the only one enjoying this smoke while it burns either, since the fragrant and comforting aroma will delight all those in your immediate area. Highly Recommended.
Continuing our effort to provide our readers with the most complete information about all types of cigars, SMOKE expands our Cigar Review to include machine-made brands. Many cigar smokers currently enjoying the more expensive, premium brands may not be aware of the many machine-made cigars currently available. This, coupled with the fact that in Europe, machine-made cigars are more popular than the hand-rolled variety, has led to our decision to introduce our readers to these unique cigars.
For the following review, we sampled twelve machine-made brands in two distinctly different categories - American-styled cigars and "Dutch-type," or dry cigars. The American machine-made cigars will need to be humidified if you're looking to store a few, while the Dutch-style smokes do not require humidification at all. In most cases, what little moisture they might require is maintained by individually packaging each smoke in tubes or foil humi-packs. For this review we smoked six different samples from American manufacturers and six samples manufactured in Europe.
Keeping in mind that machine-made cigars may not be for everybody, and shouldn't be directly compared with your favorite premium brand, the following sampling clearly demonstrates that a machine made cigar can offer a satisfying smoking experience, and at a much lower price.
GARCIA GRANDE Pitas
Garcia Grandes were introduced to the smoking public in 1996, by Cigars by Santa Clara NA, to compete in the U.S.A.
mass-market cigar category. These clearly constructed box pressed smokes burn evenly and have a medium-bodied, woodsy flavor. The Ecuadorian wrapper, Honduran binder and blended filler from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua, make this aromatic smoke a good value by the bundle.
MUNIEMAKER Judges Cave
The Judges Cave was the first brand introduced by FD Grave and Son in 1884, and today they are still made with 0
sun-grown Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and binder, though the filler was changed from long to short in 1964. With its veiny, heavily oiled wrapper, the Judges Cave is a very rustic yet tasty smoke whose spicy and robust character grows as the stick is smoked.
From the makers of King Edward cigars come the Directors, a mild flavorful smoke featuring a Wisconsin sun-grown wrapper. Even burning and subtly flavorful, the Directors' dark, Colorado maduro wrapper contributes to its mild spice and peppery flavor. The white ash hangs on for longer than you would expect for a short filler cigar, and the smooth satiny wrapper, though veiny, is a pleasure in the hand.
ANTONIO Y CLEOPATRA Grenadier Coronas
Though the Antonio y Cleopatra brand has its origins in Cuba, these machine-made smokes are now made in Puerto Rico. These even burning, earthy and pungent cigars were previously wrapped with a Cameroon wrapper, but thanks to the scarcity of this popular leaf, they are now wrapped with a white ash-producing Indonesian wrapper. Over 110 million Antonio y Cleopatra cigars are rolled by machine each year, making these smokes among the most smoked cigar in the world.
GARCIA Y VEGA Presidente
During the early part of the nineteenth century, the Garcia and Vega families were well known in New York City for their cigars. In 1882 they moved their operation to Tampa, and began national distribution. Today, their cigars are still made in the U.S. and are classically mild smokes that are clean smoking, with an even burn and a good draw. The Connecticut Valley wrapper imparts a bit of spice to these smokes, which are smoother than many machine-mades on the market.
The Europa owes its deep smokiness to the dark-fired curing process these cheroots undergo several times during production. The Kentucky wrapper and a filler blend of Belgian and Italian tobaccos are all dark-fired before rolling, then dark-fired again after rolling. The effect is a distinctly Italian-styled smoke, much like the toscanis Clint Eastwood smoked in his days with director Sergio Leone. The dry-curing process brings out a natural sweetness in the tobacco. Fire one up when you're feeling like a high plains drifter.
Operating at one time in Switzerland, the Danneman factory where the Espadas are made has been relocated to Germany. A mild and mellow smoking cigar, Espadas are made predominantly of Sumatran leaf, blended with some Brazilian tobacco. The aroma is smooth and pleasantly earthy, while the smoke is clean and easy. These Dannemans are wrapped singularly in aluminum foil so they will stay fresh for months beyond the purchase date without further humidification.
The medium-bodied Brand V.S.O.P is undoubtedly one of the smoothest of the European machine made cigars, with a mellow fragrance, perfect draw and even burn. The mild and lively flavors are a result of carefully blended, predominantly Pacific tobaccos: a Sumatran wrapper, Java binder, and filler blend of Indonesian and Brazilian leaf. The V.S.O.P. stays cool and tasty, unlike many short-filler machine-made smokes, providing an elegant smoking experience.
CORPS DIPLOMATIQUE After Dinner
The After Dinner from Corps Dimplomatique may be a little milder than most premium cigar smokers might prefer in a postprandial smoke, but it is still enjoyable at almost any time. Smokers may find the draw on the After Dinner a little tight, thanks to the pre-pierced hole, but this stick loosens up nicely after lighting. The aroma is never pervasive or cigary, and the ash hangs on nicely with little flaking for a short-filler cigar. A Sumatran wrapper and blend of Brazilian and Indonesian filler, make this smoke mild enough for after breakfast, too.
LA PAZ Gran Corona
The La Paz name is most renowned for their Wilde style, or smaller cigars and cigarillos with an untrimmed foot. The tubed Gran Corona however, is neatly trimmed on both ends of the cigar. This is yet another Indonesian/Brazilian blend that is mild and smooth, but the La Paz is notable for its near-effortless draw. It is extremely light-bodied, with an almost dusty aroma, and smokers may notice a slight softening while smoking.
VILLIGER Premium No. 3
When, in 1888, Jean Villiger couldn't find the quality he demanded from a cigar in his small Swiss village, he took matters into his own hands. The Villiger operation is still owned by the Villiger family, though the operation that once produced only handmade cigars has moved exclusively into the realm of machine-made. The long, panatela-sized Premium No. 3's are mild and smooth, with an aroma vaguely reminiscent of pipe tobaccos. This, no doubt, is a result of the two to three years
of aging the Indonesian and Brazilian leaf receives before hitting the rolling machines.
ZINO Grand Classic Brasil
The Zino Grand Classic Brasil is a mild and aromatic smoke, though not as mild as the Sumatran offering in the same line. Overall this smoke is smooth and tasty, and it occasionally has a little bite of spice to it. The flavors develop fully in the Zino, though it is a surprisingly light bodied smoke, owed mostly to the addition of Indonesian tobaccos into the blend. The black foil humi-packs will keep these shorties fresh, according to Davidoff, for up to eighteen months, so no further humidification is required.
Our online summary of each review serves as a handy guide of our panelist's comments. Any "recommendations" within are made solely by the panelists, and DO NOT necessarily represent the opinions of SMOKE's editorial staff.
For complete details of this month's reviews, see the Summer '97 issue
of SMOKE Magazine - available at a tobacconist near you.
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