<![CDATA[Blog - Post Feed]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog.html Fri, 24 Feb 2017 11:00:22 +0000 Zend_Feed http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss <![CDATA[Air Travel with Cigars]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog/air-travel-with-cigars.html There are a few questions that we’re asked frequently here at CigarPlace or that gets asked repeatedly on the social cigar forums so I figured that I would write about them today. These questions are especially timely as I am preparing to travel by plane this week for my annual birthday vacation. Traveling with cigars by air presents a few small challenges, and we will talk about them briefly below.

In this post-9/11 era, torch lighters are banned on planes, even in checked luggage, by the TSA, even if empty, so make sure to leave them home. Butane soft flame lighters are however allowed in both checked luggage and as carry-ons, but the cans of butane themselves are not. So, be sure to leave those home and pick them up at your destination. It is no secret around these parts that my soft flame lighter of choice is the Xikar EX Single Flame Windproof Lighter. I have been carrying mine for over four years now, and it has never failed me, and TSA has not confiscated it yet. Alternatively, very popular with cigar smokers are the Djeep brand of soft flame lighters due to their large fuel reservoirs and cheap cost. In a pinch, a good old fashioned Bic lighter will also get the job done; it will just take longer. Cedar strips also come in handy here if you want to pack some in your humidor. You can light the cedar strip with your Bic and then light your cigar if it is not too windy. I keep a box or two of matches in my carry-on as well as a last resort.

Cigars Cutters and Punches, however, are allowed both in your checked luggage and as carry-ons so feel free to bring them with you. I do, err on the side of caution and don’t bring my favorite cutter with me but instead, a lesser expensive cutter that I do not mind losing in case TSA decides to become overzealous. While my favorite cutter is a long since discontinued Xikar Xi3 Exotic Cocobolo Wood Cutter, I tend to carry a few Cigar Savor Double Bladed Guillotine Cutters and a Xikar 007 Twist Punch Cigar Cutter when flying these days.

I also keep a copy of the TSA regulations in my carry-on that shows both cigar cutters and soft flame lighters are allowed. Additionally, I make sure to leave myself a little bit of extra time just in case a situation does occur. It has yet to be an issue, but I would rather be prepared than not.

Now, there is one thing that those of you with the smaller Xikar travel humidors are going to want to know about and that is cabin and baggage pressurization. When you check, or carry-on your cigars and the cabin is pressurized the backpressure created will cause a seal so tight that you will likely need a butter knife or screwdriver to break it. The solution to this is to leave one of your latches undone while flying. The larger Xikar and Cigar Caddy humidors have a small release valve knob built in for this purpose.

If you do not have a travel humidor yet, might I recommend using a wide-mouth Nalgene water bottle with a Boveda pack tossed in to keep your cigars fresh? I did this for years before I had a travel humidor and it was an excellent way to keep my cigars humidified with 10 or fewer sticks on short trips. The water bottle fits perfectly in the water bottle pocket of my backpack, didn’t take up a significant amount of space in my bag, sit funny, create a bulge or require me to carry it separately. A wide-mouth Nalgene water bottle works wonderfully, will cost you less than $10 and can be found at most any sporting goods store or Target in your area.

Should you not have one of those or want to spend even less, you can use any plastic resealable food container, such as Gladware or other such brands also with a Boveda pack. Although, then you are back to taking up space in your bag again, sometimes that is the trade-off.

When I check a bag, like I am going to do this weekend, I usually put my toiletry bag in my checked bag, so that leaves me an allowance for the infamous TSA 3-1-1 bag of liquids. In that infamous 1-quart Ziploc bag is where I put more than a few airplane sized bottles of my favorite spirits for making mixed drinks on the plane, for a layover between my flights, or in case my flight becomes delayed. It sure beats paying $10/drink in the airport or the air. The in-flight staff is not usually too friendly to this so you might want to keep this on the down-low and by all means, don’t get sloppy, no one likes drunk plane passengers.

So, to recap, no torch lighters at all. Soft flame lighters are okay in checked or carry-on luggage. Your cigar cutter, punch or even small cigar scissors (under 4”) are also acceptable in your carry-on or checked bags. I still wouldn’t recommend taking your favorite items just in case the TSA agent decides to confiscate them anyhow and always bring a box or two of non-strike anywhere matches with you as a back-up. If you have any awesome travel tips to share with us, please be sure to do so in the comments below.

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 20:37:28 +0000
<![CDATA[The Battle of the Breath]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog/the-battle-of-the-breath.html A while back, I had made plans for a Saturday night. My date was scheduled for 7:00, and I had a couple of hours to kill before going out, presenting a perfect opportunity to kick back, light up a good cigar, and relax a bit before the night's festivities. So here I was, about halfway through what happened to be an awfully strong stick, a Camacho if memory serves me right, and it hits me: I'm going to be up close and personal with someone, and I'm gonna have some awful cigar breath! To make matters worse, it just so happened that the girl I was taking out absolutely hated all things smoke-related, so cigar breath was definitely not going to make for a good time (and needless to say, things didn't end up working out with that chick; I gotta have my smokes!). Anyway, at the moment all I could do was try to set out on a crash journey of researching the best-known methods of battling cigar breath, and there didn't seem to be much that can take on the brute strength of one of the worst breath enemies in all existence. Nevertheless, combining some interesting findings with my years of experience, I was able to come up with a very effective solution to the problem, and I'm happy to share it with my fellow cigar freaks. After all, nobody likes cigar breath, not even cigar smokers themselves.

The thing with cigar breath is that unlike most causes of bad breath, cigar breath isn't brought about by bacteria. This fact alone completely renders most “fresh breath solutions” on the market to be relatively useless. In my early smoking days, I usually reached for my trusty bottle of Listerine in attempts to mask my smoke breath from my then girlfriend. Of course, this method never worked. The minty freshness would last for a few minutes, but low and behold, the cigar breath would always return, not to mention the awful taste of the flavored mouthwash mixed with stale cigar taste was stuck to my tongue for what seemed like an eternity. Unfortunately, this is going to be the case with most over-the-counter mouthwashes and breath sprays. They're either designed to kill bacteria, cover up (weak) odors, or attempt to do both. As far as cigar breath goes, however, they're powerless.

If, however, you have no other option than to buy an oral care product in attempts to remedy your nasty cigar breath, there are a couple of halfway decent products available today that can actually help. One is called Targon, which is a rinse aimed at cigarette smokers that's been around for years. Its marketing is to get nicotine stains out of teeth, but the strong cleansing properties of the rinse do a pretty good job at cleansing the palate after a strong cigar. The other product is called Smart Mouth. This one is somewhat expensive, but desperate times require desperate measures, I guess. Smart Mouth, like Listerine, is said to work for bad breath caused by bacteria, but there must be something extra in it because it does a pretty darned good job at eliminating all types of bad breath, including that caused by cigars. In addition to these, there is a breath spray available at some tobacconists called Cigar Clear, which is somewhat of an extra strong peppermint formula aimed specifically at smokers. It will do in a pinch, but ultimately it's just a cover-up and will wear off quickly. Nevertheless, it's not a bad idea to drop a few bucks on a bottle to keep in your briefcase or glove compartment for emergencies.

Now for the good news: the most effective solutions are cheap, easy, and not very hard to find. First off, in my research, I found that citric acid is cigar breath's worst enemy. As a matter of fact, just about any acidic compound will do a good job at breaking down tar left on the palate and clearing out the smoke fog in no time. This includes vinegar, coffee, and even some soft drinks. However, I'm not so sure vinegar breath, or coffee breath would be much better than cigar breath; it's kind of like jumping out of a puddle and into a ditch. Citrus fruit, on the other hand, is quite pleasant. I can't think of anyone who doesn't like the smell or taste of a fresh orange or a refreshing splash of lemon juice. Best of all, oranges, lemons, limes, etc. are all very inexpensive and available at just about any grocery store, restaurant, or bar. You can pick your poison, whether orange juice, a whole orange or grapefruit, or a glass of water with a hefty dose of lemon or lime juice liberally squeezed into it. No matter what you choose, you can pretty much rest assured that the cigar breath will be on its way out very quickly, and not only that but rather than being simply covered up, it will be completely eliminated. Pretty cool, huh?

The other cigar breath killer is, in my opinion, something that every household should stock up on. It's a virtual miracle substance that has been proven to take stains out of clothing, whiten teeth, clean just about anything, and completely annihilate just about any germ known to man. It's cheap, it's sold at just about any grocery store, drug store, or gas station, and although one of the most powerful cleaners in existence, it's still safe enough to rinse your mouth with when diluted. I'm talking about hydrogen peroxide. That's right, that old brown bottle of fizzy clear liquid that your momma used to pour on your boo-boos when you were a kid. It can be bought for as little as half a buck per bottle but has endless uses. See, the thing with peroxide is that it excels in removing stuck-on substances. The thing that makes cigar breath so robust is the way the tar and nicotine become like glue on your palate. This is why most other mouth rinses just sort of run over it, rather than stripping it off. With peroxide, though, tar and nicotine don't really stand a chance. Now before you go thinking about all the times your dentist told you that peroxide is bad for your enamel, I'll honestly say that for years I've been rinsing with peroxide and water just about every time I brush my teeth, and to date my enamel is still there, healthy and shiny as ever. The brown bottle you get at the drug store is highly diluted, to begin with, and when diluted 50/50 with water is completely safe for your teeth. In fact, it's quite beneficial to them. Peroxide works wonders when it comes to whitening teeth and preventing infections and various oral issues, including gingivitis. However, before I digress too much, let's get back to the topic at hand. For cigar breath, a minute or two rinsing with peroxide and water will usually do the trick, even after the strongest of cigars. Also, although not necessary as far as cigar breath is concerned, your peroxide rinse should be followed by a thorough brushing to ensure your breath is as fresh as possible.

So let's put it all together. Over-the-counter mouthwashes and breath sprays are useless. Citrus fruits and juices are awesome. Hydrogen peroxide is a cigar breath killing beast. So this being said, here's my personal fail-proof regimen when I know I'm going to have a close encounter but still want to enjoy a smoke before going out:

  • I squeeze a large amount of fresh lemon juice in a glass of water and sip it while smoking. Not only will this minimize cigar breath from the get-go, but the palate will be cleansed while smoking, actually furthering the enjoyability of the smoking experience.
  • After smoking, I rinse my mouth thoroughly with a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water and follow with a good brushing with mint flavored toothpaste.
  • Before heading out, I'll usually have some more lemon water just to be sure my palate is squeaky clean. Also, if going to dinner, my beverage of choice will almost always be water with extra lemon. If going to the bar, I'll squeeze extra lemon into my Long Island iced tea or extra lime in my Corona. Every base will be covered and cigar breath will be virtually non-existent.

Of course, I can be a bit excessive about these things. I take my breath pretty seriously. In all honesty, a good glass of lemon water OR a quick peroxide rinse will no doubt do the trick for most. Also, if you're one of those folks that are able to enjoy a cigar on your lunch break at work, I have some quick words of wisdom. First of all, I envy you. I get a 30-minute lunch break, and it's nowhere near long enough for me to truly enjoy a good smoke. Second, consider packing an orange, a grapefruit, a tangerine, or something similar in your lunch bag. A good dose of citrus fruit after your cigar will do an excellent job at clearing your breath. Also, if nothing else, keep a tin of Altoids at your desk. They are one of the few mints that actually do a decent job of covering up cigar breath. Just make sure to go for the peppermint variety, as they're the strongest by far.

So there you have it! The seemingly unsolvable problem of cigar breath is now solved. Rest assured, by the way, that I wouldn't write about something like this without first trying everything out first hand. Over my years of smoking, I've always been on somewhat of a journey to find a solution to this ongoing problem. I'm rather social, I go out quite a bit, and on top of that I work in close quarters. My breath is something I have to pay close attention to. My cigars are something I pay even more attention to. So why wouldn't finding a solution to cigar breath be a priority for me?

Here at CigarPlace, we are all about helping out our fellow cigar fanatics. If you have an idea for a topic on our blog or a question you'd like answered from our cigar experts, feel free to leave a comment down below. As always, happy smoking and keep that breath clean!

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:34:57 +0000
<![CDATA[From the Ninja's Desk - New Year's Eve 2016]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog/from-the-ninjas-desk-new-years-eve-2016.html It’s time for another installment of From the Ninja’s Desk. It seems that every time I take a trip, it is time for another blog post from me. It works for me this way actually. I get to talk about the cool trips I take and the cigars I smoke all at the same time. Hanukkah started for me last weekend, and I drove the 8 hours North to celebrate Christmas with 2 of my ex-girlfriends in Charleston, SC for the long 3-day weekend. I left after work on Friday evening, and after getting a late start, I pulled into Charleston around 3 AM. Now normally on an 8-hour drive, I would have smoked at least two cigars, but something more like three or four but on this trip, I just wasn’t feeling it. I had my dog in the car with me; it was chilly, and I had left my hoody in the back of the SUV and kept forgetting to grab it on the two stops I made so I just somehow didn’t have a cigar at all on the way up. So, I pull into Charleston, drag my stuff into the house, get the dog, Elvis, situated and say hello to Steph and Eileen, my exes; whom I would be staying with for the weekend. Steph and Eileen are both cigar smokers, so I was not too concerned about getting some cigars in over the course of my time there. I settled into bed and woke up about 4 hours later ready to rock out my Saturday and get things moving.

Steph and Eileen both had to work at least part of Saturday leaving me mostly on my own for the bulk of the day, so I did a bit of exploring. I went first in search of the closest Piggly Wiggly. For those of you not in the know, Piggly Wiggly is a chain of grocery stores in the Southeast. I was going there in search of t-shirts that they sell with their logo on them for myself and some friends of mine that live in other states as well as to pick up some desserts for our Christmas Eve gathering for eight later that evening. I bought two shirts and a hat and made my way over to the salon next door to see what the wait time was for a fresh cut. Wait time would be about 30 minutes so I decided to pop into the liquor store next door and check out the bourbon selection there as I had to get my annual gift for Eileen, a bottle of Maker’s Mark. It is somewhat of a long running joke; as we're both members of the Maker's Mark Ambassador's Program that sends you a Maker's Mark themed Christmas gift each year. This year it was mistletoe for your Maker's Mark bottle, last year it was ear muffs for both you and your bottle. The gifts are cute and the program is free to join. Shortly after you join, they actually label a barrel with your name and 7 years later, they contact you before your barrel is ready to be bottled in case you'd like to make a trip to the factory to purchase and wax dip a bottle from your own barrel or some gimmick like that. More information on the Ambassador's program can be found here.

Perusing the options, I was able to sample a few selections, including Bulleit Rye, Larceny Bourbon, Four Roses Single Barrel, and a few others as well. I did something bold and broke the tradition, deciding instead to get her a bottle of the Larceny and about ten airport bottles of various bourbons and whiskeys so she can sample some new stuff and perhaps find a new favorite or two for herself. The lady helping me asked if I was looking for anything special and I said that I was always on the lookout for unique stuff and she asked my price range, and I stated that I did not want to spend much more than $50 a bottle. She said then what I have to recommend today is just a bit above that at $55, it just came in today, and I only have one bottle. There was a guy that asked me to hold it for him for half an hour, but that was 4 hours ago, and it seems like you know your stuff. At this point, I recognize that she is trying to sweet talk me into buying this bottle, but if it is a reasonable enough price for what it is, I will seriously consider buying it especially if I cannot find it or haven’t seen it recently in Florida. So, I let her show me the bottle and it is a bottle of Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon. And what a sexy bottle of bourbon it was. Now this is not something that I know much about, nor is it a bourbon that I have had before, so I tell her that I have a hair appointment next door and that I am going to think about it before deciding but not to hold it for me.

I walked next door and uneventfully got my mohawk tamed back into shape. In case anyone is wondering, I take the sides down as close to the skin as the stylist can. In this salon, the closest they could go was a 0 on the clippers or no guard, which is disappointing to me as I much prefer a straight razor shave on the sides or a fade into the mohawk but the local barbershop was closed. Oh well, there’s always next time. While getting my hair cut, I decided to wait on buying the bottle of bourbon. I wanted to peruse r/bourbon on Reddit first to see what my fellow bourbon aficionados had to say about it and which other bourbons might have similar taste profiles.

Next, I ran back to the girls’ place to let Elvis out in the back yard for a few hours now that it was sunny and about 65 degrees and I made a phone call to the local Nissan dealership to see if they could squeeze me in on Christmas Eve for a quick oil change. They not only had time, but they were also only 3 minutes down the road and charged a super reasonable $33 for my Rogue SUV, who is now more than 2 months old and still doesn't have a name. In and out of the dealership with an oil change, car wash, and fluids all topped off in under 30 minutes. Now that's what I call great service and they did it all on Christmas Eve with smiles on their faces. They did indicate that I needed a new battery, but I will take that up with my dealership here at home because I just bought the car two months ago, I should not need a new battery and have a dead cell already. If you have any name recommendations, please feel free to put them in the comments below.

It is now about three o’clock on Saturday, and we will have guests arriving starting at about six, so I swing back home to Steph and Eileen’s. I pick up Eileen, and we head to the grocery store to grab the last of the stuff that we will need to host both Christmas Eve dinner for 8 and Christmas dinner for about 10 or so. Note that I STILL haven’t had time for a cigar in here yet, but I have slipped in a few airport bottles of bourbon, whiskey and rye throughout the day. So far, I have tasted some Larceny, Knob Creek, Bird Dog Flavored Whiskeys, and a special treat of Angel’s Envy. Surprisingly, the Larceny and Bird Dog are not half bad for the price. I would stock my bar with either of them for the price with the Larceny taking a small edge. Larceny is a newcomer to the bourbon world. It is a wheated bourbon like Maker’s Mark or the elusive Pappy Van Winkle, but at roughly $20 a bottle, it is a bargain. A few drops of water I found open it up and make it sing beautifully for the price. I get dinner started with Steph and kick back as our guests start arriving and we all shared an awesome dinner together.

We spent a good portion of our dinnertime together trying to figure out what kitchen gadget someone found in their kitchen was. A friend sent the picture below to someone we were having dinner with to see if we could figure out what it was because no one they were having dinner with knew what it was and lo and behold we couldn't figure it out either. I'm going to send a cigar prize pack to the first person to tell me what it is and how it is used because we've searched to the end of Google and back again a few times, asked our mothers and grandmothers and no one seems to know the answer, so I'm hoping that one of you among our list might know the answer.

Steph, our friend Cara, who had been at dinner with us, and I decided at a quarter to midnight that we were going to take a drive to visit a friend in Myrtle Beach that has been having a rough time lately.We left Eileen home with her girlfriend Melissa and the Elvis doggy. This is where I FINALLY get to have a cigar.

Now, the cigar itself has a bit of a backstory. We LOVE all of our customers but even among our customers, we each have our favorites. Well, one of my favorites is a gentleman by the name of Feisal Rauf. He is an Imam in the Muslim faith, which by it’s loosest definition is the “person who leads prayers in a mosque” or “a title of various Muslim leaders.” He is the leader and founder of the Cordoba House based in New York City. He does great work for the advancement of American Muslim identity, interfaith dialogue, denouncing extremist Muslims and being a voice for the moderate Muslim. He also happens to be an avid cigar smoker with exquisite taste. Back in early October, we were running a special on the Oliva Serie V Melanio cigars, and he decided to purchase a box of the Petit Coronas on my recommendation, having never smoked them, with the caveat that he gift me two of them for a future blog post review.

So, it is on this night, on this car ride, that I have decided finally to enjoy one of the two smokes. I pull the cigar out of the travel humidor and inspect it well. Large, double bands adorn the smallest vitola offered by Oliva in this line, and they are almost too big. The cap is well applied and cuts cleanly off. The Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper is a tan brown and is somewhat veiny. The wrapper is a bit on the rustic and rough looking side, but the cigar itself is constructed well in incredible fashion with hardly any visible seams and a fantastic box-press.

My cigar was a bit on the dry side, so I am going to have to check the other one and my travel humidor to make sure that it is holding humidity properly. This cigar was not too firmly packed but it was not too loose either, I would say that it was just about right. The draw was good, and the burn line held nice and straight and razor clean all the way through the full length of the cigar. I did not need to touch-up or anything throughout the entire smoke.

When it comes to flavor, one certainly knows that they are smoking a Nicaraguan cigar here and if you were smoking it blind, from the onset, you might be surprised to find out that it was not a Pepin pepper bomb but rather an offering from the Oliva family instead, that you were smoking. It opened with a massive blast of cayenne pepper spice and a sweeter finish of caramel, cocoa, toasted nuts, and some latte-like notes. The first few puffs were so strong with the pepper spice that if you were not careful, prepared for it, or an experienced smoker, it may be enough to make your eyes water on a retrohale, and it would likely make the back of your throat tingle some.

Once I made it through the first few puffs, though, I was pleasantly greeted by notes of dark black cherries, iced tea, wood and hints of toffee, or maybe the toffee was left in my teeth from the candy I had eaten earlier, but I am pretty sure it was in the cigar! All in all, this was a full-flavored, complex cigar and aside from the initial Pepin-like spice-bomb blast at the onset, the strength had been a staunch medium, and the smoke had remained relatively smooth.

The flavor picked up steam into the second third of the cigar, and it mellowed out a bit melding together to create a harmonious experience of cocoa, earth, spice, toasted peanuts, caramel, and leather. The spice settled out in the second third fairly significantly unless I retrohaled, in which case, I had to prepare for a knockout punch. There was an introduction of a salty sweetness and dryness to this smoke that I have not experienced with many other cigars before, and the smoke output is ridiculous, think Liga-like. You will also find a slight bitterness to this third of the cigar akin to an espresso, but I found it complimentary to the cocoa, toasted nuts, and caramel notes and not off-putting at all. Even while driving down the road at speeds of up to 85 MPH with the windows down and the heat on, what can I say, we are a weird bunch, the ash stayed on in 3/4”-1” chunks each time and it was not flaky in any way. It was firm and a beautiful white-gray the whole way.

Since I’d already removed the lower band in the second third, it was getting to be time to remove the upper band coming into the final third, but I had to give it a little more time for the glue to loosen. I hate when folks rush into removing the band before the glue is a loosened and then complain when the wrapper gets ripped when they remove their cigar band too soon. So, instead, let us take some time to examine some of the flavor notes that made this Oliva Serie V Melanio Petit Corona a full-bodied and a full-flavored cigar in its last third. I got great notes of leather, oak, cedar, spice, and toasted nuts in the forefront along with some of those dark black cherries from the first and second thirds, cocoa, earth, and some vegetals on the finish. All told, this was a much smoother smoke towards the end than it was at the onset. I would not necessarily call it creamy as some others have, but I would say that it has smooth-like qualities, I think from the toasted nut flavor kind of like peanut butter. With the top band now long gone and my fingertips about to be set aflame, I dropped the nub of the Oliva Serie V Melanio Petit Corona into my Xikar Executive Portable Ashtray Can, put the lid on it and called it the end of a great cigar experience.

I can almost hear you all saying, wait a minute here Jessica, how can you write such a detailed review of a cigar if you were driving the whole way. Well, you see, I use this awesome little app called ColorNote combined with the Voice-to-Text feature on my Android phone to take notes on things while I drive. It works out pretty darn well for me. (That, and I always smoke at least two cigars for each review I do, so I smoked a second cigar on Wednesday this week to confirm my notes…)

So, we get to Myrtle Beach, swing by our friend’s house, and spend some time with her just making sure that she knows that she is loved and cared for. When she opened the door at around 1:00 AM and realized that we drove 90 minutes in the middle of the night just to say hello and hang out for an hour or so, she was pretty floored. We stayed and talked and had some coffee for a little while and then got back on the road to head back to Charleston. We rocked out to tunes and just enjoyed the ride back in general.

Once back in Charleston, we found that Eileen had gotten us all matching Christmas pajama pants and had left them out for us. Cara got her breakfast casserole, (I linked to a similar recipe, ours used bacon, diced potatoes and red peppers and onions as well) started in the crockpot and we all settled into bed for the arrival of Christmas morning.

Cara and I were the first ones up the next morning, and we decided to watch some TV and talk for a bit before waking up the rest of the house. When Cara and I went out back to let the dog out, we realized that we turned the crockpot on, but in our exhaustion had forgotten to plug it in, DOH! Instead, we ate some snacks and dinner leftovers and turned on the crockpot for real this time knowing that we would be hungry and eat it later. I started my day with a Casa Magna Pikito Colorado as it is an enjoyable little smoke that is jam-packed with flavor. I love cigars that have cherry notes in them, and this one delivers there as well while adding notes of almond butter, baking spices, cedar, leather, and earth. While it was not super cold in SC, it was certainly way colder than I am accustomed to in South Florida. It was about 55 degrees early on Christmas morning, and this little smoke was all I needed to get my day started while sitting outside in my pajama pants and a t-shirt. It was just what the doctor ordered. The rest of the house woke up eventually around 10, we exchanged gifts and hung out talking and laughing and some of us started our drinking around 11:30 or so.

I made a quick run to the convenience store for ice and a new lighter as mine had run out of butane and the can I keep in my car was apparently empty as well. While there, there was a line of people about 15 deep and quite a few customers in the line, including the guy behind me, were getting agitated which was stressing out the poor woman working in the store alone. When it was my turn to pay, I looked at the lady and smiled wide, said Merry Christmas and got her to lock eyes with me. I asked her to take a deep breath with me and smile. Then I said to her, “Look, it’s Christmas, you’re one of the only places open in the neighborhood I’m sure, or these people wouldn’t be here waiting on line. They’re already here, and they’re not likely going to leave and go somewhere else, so let them get agitated and cranky and ruin their own Christmas. You can choose to let it bother you or not, go as fast or as slow as you are comfortable going knowing that you are the only one here for the next X hours and that you have to maintain that pace. I’m sure these nice people will understand, just be sure to smile and wish them all a happy holiday, and I’m sure they’ll be okay in the end. I work customer service also, and I know that being nice and apologizing for the wait goes a long way. So, I’m going to apologize now to all of them for holding up the line, but it looked like you needed a quick break. I’d also like to pay for the 40 the man behind me is buying.” The weight that was lifted off her shoulders was visible; she stood taller, she smiled wide and said, “Thank you. That was a wonderful gift, and I guess that he appreciates the gift too.” I apologized to everyone in line for taking so long, wished them all a joyful Merry Christmas and left the store.

I could continue for another 3000 words and bore you with how I ended up with the gift of lunch and drink of that same Willett Pot Reserve from two of my favorite guy friends at my favorite BBQ Joint, Swig and Swine, on Monday. Or, how upon tasting it at Swing and Swine, I fell in love with its buttered popcorn uniqueness, so I went back to the store and bought it.

Alternatively, I could tell you about the rest of my adventures on Christmas where my new friend Mickey let me shave his mustache off his face and how much fun that was. See, his Dad was never around to teach him how to shave, so I took it upon myself to teach him some tricks of the trade as traditional wet shaving is another hobby of mine. I used one of the new shave soaps I got as a Secret Santa gift for Christmas made by Jon Conley of Uncle Jon’s Soaps in Maryland and a double edged razor that I had brought with me from my buddy Bryan Abernathy at the Tampa Shave Company.

Eventually, though my trip had to come to an end, so I loaded up my royal, loyal Rogue on Monday, swung back through the Piggly Wiggly to pick up yet another shirt for another friend. I snapped this quick photo in awe of their growler station stocked full of local beers. I so wish we had these here in Florida! If I thought the beer would still have been in prime condition 8 hours later when I got home, I would have gotten two small growlers full, but that was not likely going to be the case. Oh well, something to look forward to on the next trip.

On the way home, I managed to smoke two cigars, a Tatuaje Tattoo Universo and a Herrera Esteli Norteno Lonsdale. Both were great cigars that I have smoked before and will smoke again on any given day. The Tatuaje is a great budget $5ish stick that comes in cabinets of 50, packs of 10, or as singles from us here at CigarPlace.biz. The Herrera Esteli Norteno Lonsdale comes in boxes of 10 or as single cigars making them a bit easier to add to your humidor when you are looking to indulge a little as they cost about double what the Tattoos do.

In any case, I am about to sign off here as I need to pick two cigars to smoke for New Year’s Eve and Day. One as the last cigar of 2016 and one as my first cigar of 2017, so if anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them in the comments below. If you have any other comments or questions about my trip, I would love to hear those too.

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 17:08:21 +0000
<![CDATA[From the Ninja's Desk - Fall 2016]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog/from-the-ninjas-desk-fall-2016.html I believe last we left off, I talked about my family vacation to Tennessee and announced the Cigars for a Year winners. This time, we’re head first into Fall and many of you have even started to feel the first snows of Winter, though down here in Florida you’d never know it. We’ve been dealing our own interesting weather patterns lately. Hurricane Matthew was coming directly for the areas that both our warehouse is in and where nearly all our employees live. We shuttered up our warehouse and homes for the better part of about 4 days. Although, the storm “wobbled” to the East by about 30 miles: sparing us it’s head-on Category 4 wrath, most of our staff was without power in our homes for those 4 days that we were closed. Here at the office, we lost power for a considerable time but our only major loss was our break room refrigerator. We’re glad that’s all we lost because we’ve been super busy making big plans for the holiday season, launching new customer marketing programs, updating product images and adding new products to the site. Had we lost more, a lot of work would have had to be put on hold to rebuild and we certainly want to avoid that whenever possible.

So, Ninja, you all ask, what exactly are you going to talk about this time, because this weather talk is kind of boring. There are two things that I’m exceedingly excited about. The first is that we’re about to roll out a new feature on our website that I’ve spent some time working on with one of our e-mail service providers and the second is that I got my first request to join a Secret Santa gift-giving exchange last week and we weren’t even out of October yet. So, I’m going to introduce you to the first and then do what I’m hoping will be the first in a series of holiday gift-giving guides.

Review Requests

One of the things I hear a lot of times from customers is that they’re disappointed that we don’t ask for their opinion about the cigars they smoke often enough. That’s all about to change. We want to know the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the products we sell and we want you to share your opinions with all our customers right on the very pages we sell on. We want you to help each other make wise buying decisions. We can write about cigars until we’re blue in the face with fancy writing and flowery words but at the end of the day some smokers simply want to hear it straight from another smoker and some smokers just love sharing their thoughts with the world. We’re trying to help benefit both types of smokers with this new initiative. With this new program, 2 weeks after you’ve placed an order with us, you’re going to receive an e-mail asking you to click a link that will take you directly to the page of a product that you’ve purchased from us, where you can log into your account and leave a short or possibly a long product review. As an added incentive to leave reviews, from time to time, I’ll be choosing some reviews at random to receive Ninja Prize packs or discount codes for your next order with us. Who knows, it might even lead to a guest spot writing for the CigarPlace blog at some point, so put forth your best work and you never know what might happen! The possibilities are truly endless.

Holiday Gift Guide

Secret Santa sign-ups have started already and for some people, that’s tough because they just don’t know what to buy their intended and they don’t want to be lame and just buy one of the things on their person’s list. So, what do you do? You check out some gift guides and you make some educated guesses and you get the person a cool gift or two from one of the gift guides and you hope that you did enough covert research to truly nail it! Or you do like my co-workers do and just buy booze! But for those of you that don’t punk out and take the booze route, here’s the start of the CigarPlace.biz Holiday Buying Guide.

Golfer's Gifts

For all the Golfer’s on your holiday list, I’ve got an assortment of gifts for you. Every golfer needs something to hold their cigar while they take their shot. We’ve got three options for you in that department. There’s the budget minded Cigar Minder which is like a Giant Chip Clip with a sort of hair-bow butterfly clip built on top for cradling your cigar comfortably. You can also stand it on it’s end on the ground if playing a walking round.

The next product I have for you is a small travel humidor made just for golfers. It's big enough to hold a few cigars and has an outer pocket to hold your cutter and lighter as well.

Then, there’s one other way to clip your cigar to the golf cart that you shouldn’t miss out on and it is the Get-A-Grip Cigar Clip. It’s a double-ended cigar clip that has a high-tension clip to clip to the cart and a lower tension, slightly weighted clip to always hold your cigar horizontally. All 3 of these products are priced between $6.20 and $14.95 making them perfect for stocking stuffers or a great addition to other golf-themed gifts this holiday season.

Smoking Den Gifts

Looking for a gift for your cigar smoker that isn’t necessarily the active type or just wants to fancy up the smoking den? Yup, the Ninja has got you covered there too. We’ve got some great Stinky Ashtray Sets that features three different sized ashtrays. Included in each set is 1 – Original 4-Cigar Stinky Ashtray , 1 – Personal Cigar Stinky Ashtray and 1 – Stinky Cigar Car Ashtray that sits in the cup holder of your car. These sets are a deeply discounted 59% savings below MSRP at $34.95 making them a great supplemental or Secret Santa gift for the smoker on your list.

Perhaps, ashtrays abound and you’re looking for some cool fire instead for the smoking den. Suffice it to say, I’ve got a product for that also. The Burner Tabletop Lighter by Alec Bradley is one of the coolest lighters we’ve ever used to light our cigars. It looks like one of those Bunsen burners you used in high school chem class to light s#@t on fire; and who doesn’t want to do that again? Priced at $35.95 these add an element of awesome to your smoking den that is simply unparalleled.

For some time now, you, our customers have been asking us to bring into stock, lower priced cutters and lighters that still get the job done adequately, but that won’t bust the budget. You know which ones we’re talking about; the ones they bring to the cigar shop to let their buddies use and not have to worry about whether it gets walked off with; or the ones they keep in the garage, golf bag, car, kitchen junk drawer; and rely on to use as a solid back up to their trusty favorite when they can’t find it or leave the house without it. Or maybe you know someone that is just starting out in cigar smoking and you want to set them up right without spending a fortune. The Vertigo Big Daddy Cutter and Hornet Quad Torch Lighter or Renegade Quad Torch Lighter are just the answer for those situations. One of the things that make this cutter live up to its name is that the Vertigo Big Daddy Cutter will cut cigars up to 80 ring-gauge in size; more than adequately handling just about any cigar on the market these days.

You’d be hard pressed to find 4-Torch flame lighters for less than $15. Although, the Hornet and Renegade Quad Torch Lighters are great values priced at $9.95 and $11.95 respectively and they get the job done time and time again in our in-house testing. All three of these items make great stocking stuffers or add them to a 5-pack of cigars from our Five-Pack Feeding Frenzy section for a complete gift.

Miscellaneous Gifts

You say, but Ninja, I must buy gifts for my office Secret Santa and no one there smokes cigars and I still don’t know what to get them. Maybe they’re a cigarette smoker and they would enjoy a Zippo lighter. We carry those too. We have a wide variety of Zippo products including the torch insert for Zippo cases should you happen to like that signature Zippo flicking sound. I highly recommend the Zippo All in One Gift Kit . The reason I recommend this kit is that you get a Zippo lighter, Zippo Lighter fluid, and a case of extra Zippo flints for your lighter all for $14.95.

The other gift I recommend in this case is the Xikar 744 Cigar Cut Knife . While it’s designed to work as a cigar cutting knife, the consensus is that it isn’t the best tool for that but that as small pocketknives go, it’s fantastic. And I can’t think of anyone that can’t use a small pocketknife, especially with the number of Amazon Prime boxes that arrive at my house these days.

I know, I too, am still in disbelief that Monday was Halloween, despite my dressing up for the occasion for the first time in my adult life. My friends and I took their kids trick or treating and while all had a great time, the adults couldn’t help but notice how much had changed since we were kids. I’ll spare you all the details and of my waxing poetic with the nostalgia of day’s gone past. Of silly string battles and shaving cream fights, of toilet paper in the trees and yes, even eggs tossed at our friends, our enemies, and some stranger’s homes, but that all seemed to be missing this year. Hopefully, that sense of fun and adventure will be back amongst our neighborhoods next year. Minus the eggs… cleaning those up is never fun.

Yet, now it is time to look to the holidays ahead, for on the morning that this post will be published, most of us will fall backward and lose an hour. Here in North America, this will mean darker mornings and darker nights, colder weather, for many that also means shorter cigars and retreating indoors for smoke breaks if we're lucky enough to be able to. For those of you for whom that is not the case, my deepest sympathies and my invitation to smoke with me in Southeast Florida. Until next time, folks, happy smoking!

Fri, 30 Dec 2016 21:57:11 +0000
<![CDATA[Cigar Review: Flor de Las Antillas]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog/cigar-review-flor-de-las-antillas.html 2012 was a fantastic year for the cigar business. New brands emerged, new cigars from existing brands were introduced, new sizes were brought out. In addition, some of the most successful boutique companies were born and given their claim to fame. Social media was beginning to thrive, and the cigar community as a whole grew along with it, thus giving more exposure to hot new cigars on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the Garcia family in Nicaragua was about to shock and awe everyone in the world of cigars with what would become one of their most massively successful projects of all time, a cigar that would change the way we see the My Father brand and blow the minds of connoisseurs and aficionados the world over. This stick would instantly be revered as one of the greatest cigars in recent history, one to bring an even brighter spotlight on the My Father name. The cigar that would accomplish this was Flor de las Antillas.

Named after Cuba, the largest of the Greater Antilles Islands, as well as the homeland of My Father Cigars head honcho and owner Don Pepin Garcia, Flor de las Antillas literally translates to "Flower of the Antilles," one of the many endearing nicknames given to the land of Cuba. In all actuality, the success of this stick was kind of a fluke. It remains as one of the most affordable lines in the otherwise high-end (and pricey) My Father portfolio. It was released quietly, without a huge introduction, and made its debut as an un-banded celebratory cigar at Federal Cigar's 91st birthday party in March of 2012. It was officially released shortly after but would remain unnoticed for the most part until about January of the following year. Why January? Well, by January, the cigar-smoking public had feasted their eyes on Cigar Aficionado's list of the Top 25 Cigars of 2012. To the surprise of many, a well-known big name wasn't residing at the top spot. A cigar many had never heard of, from a brand everyone, has come to know and love was proudly displayed on the page of "Number 1 Cigar of 2012." It was no other than Flor de las Antillas. As it turned out, Flor de las Antillas had earlier in the year received an unprecedented 96 rating in the magazine that many consider the commanding authority on cigar reviews. At the time, it was the highest rating any cigar from the My Father Factory in Nicaragua had ever received, as well as one of the highest non-Cuban cigar ratings the magazine had ever dished out. This was quite an accomplishment for Don Pepin and company.

If you're reading this, odds are you know at least a little something about the cigar business. Chances are you know who Don Pepin is, how he's a living legend in the world of cigars. How he once rolled 320 cigars in 4 hours and was ranked as Cuba's most productive and skilled cigar rollers before coming to America and opening his own small boutique in Little Havana. You probably know how he collaborated with the likes of Ernesto Padilla in his early years, made cigars for the legendary Ashton Cigar Company, and churned out some of the biggest boutique hits of all time, such as his world-famous Blue Label, the luxurious powerhouse San Cristobal, and later the bold, opulent masterpiece, My Father, after which his current state-of-the-art factory in Nicaragua is named. You probably know how Don Pepin is one of the most successful cigar makers and blenders in history, and that it seems impossible for him to make a bad cigar. And you may even know that his son, Jaime, and daughter, Janny are also in the cigar business, co-running the My Father brand and pumping out some of their own lines as well. So I'll spare you on the family history. Flor de las Antillas is somewhat of a father-son collaboration of sorts, making the best of the expertise of both master blenders and showcasing it in one phenomenal cigar.

Flor de las Antillas is a Nicaraguan puro and a darned fine one at that. Made entirely of extremely high-end filler tobacco from the Garcias' farms in Esteli and topped off with a one-of-a-kind sun grown Corojo wrapper leaf from the family's Las Marias farm in the Namanji region, Flor de las Antillas was years in the making. The Garcias don't skimp on their aging process, and they definitely don't spare expenses when it comes to top-grade Cuban seed tobacco. Don Pepin is a stickler for Cubanesque flavor and intensity, so the tobacco selection is of utmost priority. It's no wonder why so many big names have collaborated with him and his family over the years. Nicaragua is home to some of the finest tobacco on the planet, and the Nicaraguan tobacco market is dominated by only a handful of big names, among whom are the likes of Oliva, Padron, Plasencia, and of course, Garcia. Perhaps owning and operating his own farms is a way to keep the price down on stellar sticks such as Flor de las Antillas. Either way, a retail of usually $7-9 per cigar is ridiculously reasonable for a cigar of this stature.

Flor de las Antillas is offered in 5 sizes: a 5” x 50 Robusto, a 5 1/2” x 52 Belicoso, the massive 6 1/2” x 56 Toro Gordo and 6” x 60 Toro Grande, and of course the highly acclaimed, 96-rated 6” x 52 Toro. The shade of the outer leaf is a reddish brown, with the appearance of suede leather. Though the tobacco itself has a rugged appearance, the construction is beautiful, boasting the Pepin signature double wrapper and triple cap. The band resembles an antique painting of sorts, giving Flor de las Antillas a nostalgic feel. The box press is very pronounced on all sizes and the packing is always full, even, and firm. Overall, it's a gorgeous stick that screams "SMOKE ME!" Speaking of, let's get to it already.

Dry puffing Flor de las Antillas is beautiful. The warm nuances of cinnamon, cocoa, and spice are so obvious it seems to make you hungry for a dessert. Lighting up, well, that's a different story. It's amazing how literally none of the dry puff flavors seem to show up during the smoking process, at least not early off. I know what you're probably thinking if you have no experience with this cigar, that it's a Don Pepin stick and it's loaded with palate-blasting white pepper. Well, truth is that there is actually very little pepper at all, making this a Pepin cigar you probably aren't used to. This could be a great thing for some, but a letdown for others. For me personally, I welcome with open arms the immense spice most Pepin cigars carry. I quite enjoy the intensity and full-bodied goodness that I've come to get used to from Don Pepin over the years. Flor de las Antillas is different, though. It's tame, soft, subtle. It's not mild by any means, just not wild either. The body is there, the flavor is there, but it's more about the smoothness than the spice when it comes to Flor de las Antillas.

The opening sequence is slight pepper, earth, and aged tobacco. Full-bodied, medium-flavored. As it continues, the earthiness gains strength, dominating the blend, yet never takes over the flavor profile completely. A very pronounced citrus note is thoroughly noticeable throughout the duration of the cigar, reminiscent of the background notes of a classic Punch cigar. I find this quite remarkable, as Don Pepin has literally never been known for such a blend as this. It's always been about pepper, tobacco, pepper, and more tobacco. If you've smoked many of his sticks, you know that to an extent they all taste very, very similar. In fact, some may notice little to no difference at all between Don Pepin's blends, save for the fact that maybe some are stronger than others. I think it's his Cuban roots and his passion for classic Cuban flavors that lead to this phenomenon. Regardless, Don Pepin's blending strategy has worked over the years, and he has the ratings to prove it. But I digress. Point is, Flor de Las Antillas is a completely new creation when we are talking about something coming out of the My Father factory.

Approaching the second third of the cigar, the pepper is just about completely gone. A few hints of cocoa and nutmeg pop up, similar to the notes on the dry puff, but they fade behind the very strong earth and citrus that seems to be what this blend revolves around. The finish is very smooth and the retrohale is heavy, with even more citrus hitting the nose on the way out. There is also a slight floral note that looms in the background, something like what comes with many Cameroon cigars, and it complements the overall profile beautifully. While quite complex, Flor de las Antillas is actually quite a simple cigar. It becomes more simple when paired with the correct beverage, which I'll get to shortly.

By the time the second third is finished, Flor de las Antillas has turned into a very strong cigar. The nicotine and tar are very heavy and some harshness begins to rear its ugly head. However, it's not exactly a tongue burner by any means, just a bit heavy for some, if not most. By the time Flor de las Antillas gets to about the 3-inch mark, most of the complexity has left and has been overtaken by darker, more basic flavor. A raw tobacco note with hints of coffee is constant, mingled with a very heavy nicotine presence. Still, despite a slight harshness on the top of the palate, Flor de las Antillas remains quite smokable all the way down to the nub. It's funny how the Garcias manage to mix full-bodied with smooth and smokable, as their cigars are so well known for being powerhouse sticks. They have somehow mastered the art of balance, something so many blenders fall short on. Either it's mild and smooth or bold and harsh. Only a handful of blenders take full-bodied cigars to the extreme and retain maximum smoke-ability. Don Pepin just seems like a natural when it comes to this.

And so, after all, is said and done, the slow-burning, medium-full-bodied Flor de Las Antillas makes a lasting impression on whoever is fortunate enough to enjoy it. Summed up, it starts off tame, with immense complexity, gains strength throughout the duration of the cigar, and finishes with simple flavor and maximum potency. It's literally a storybook of a cigar, and that's exactly what makes it so incredible. Flor de las Antillas is one of the most highly acclaimed sticks to ever come out of Nicaragua. And for good reason! I remember that after trying Flor de las Antillas for the first time, I immediately bought an entire box. It was just that good. It captivates and mesmerizes. It's difficult to explain; you just have to experience it for yourself.

Flor de las Antillas pairs well with just about any cigar-friendly libations, including the standard bourbon or scotch, but in my opinion, is complemented best with a good port wine. Ruby port seems to go best, as the sweetness complements the citrus note of Flor de las Antillas so beautifully, also helping to showcase the rich tobacco flavors of the cigar between sips. Would I call Flor de las Antillas an everyday cigar? Probably not, as it's just too special for that. Although, to say not to smoke one every day would be making a hypocrite of myself, as I tore through my box at record speed. Another reason I can't speak against making it a regular cigar in your rotation is the price. Flor de las Antillas is easily the most affordable cigar offered by the Garcia family in their regular lineup. At around half the price of their flagship My Father blend, Flor de las Antillas is pretty much a no-brainer, even if you've never tried one. As for comparable cigars, Padron 1964 seems to come to mind, as well as Oliva Serie V Melanio, both in their natural executions.

Flavor? Check. Versatility? Check. Price point? Check. Quality and consistency? Check. It would seem as though Flor de las Antillas is the perfect cigar. That is really not too far from the truth. If you've never tried Flor de las Antillas, I very, very strongly suggest you give it a shot, even if you have been made to shy away from Don Pepin's cigars over the years. Flor de las Antillas is a whole different experience. It's something anyone and everyone can enjoy, but obviously the more experienced you are, the more you will appreciate the blend. Whether relaxing in your favorite cigar lounge, sitting on your back patio, or lounging on the beach with your feet in the sand, you simply can't go wrong with Flor de las Antillas. It's about as close to perfect as a cigar can get.

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 16:33:56 +0000
<![CDATA[Hurricane Matthew Advisory]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog/hurricane-matthew-advisory.html 10/7/16 - 5:45PM

We will be resuming normal business operations on Monday the 10th. Thank you for your patience.

The Staff of CigarPlace.biz

10/5/16 - 11:00AM

Please be advised that our offices will be closed starting on October 6th due to Hurricane Matthew. We will gladly continue to take your orders online and ship them as soon as we are able to return to the office. We hope to be able to reopen normal business operations on Monday October 10th.

The storm is supposed to hit us Thursday and depending on the severity of the storm and it's damage we could be out for a few days.

Once we know more about our situation, we will do our best to let you know what is going on.

Happy Smoking!

The Staff of CigarPlace.biz

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 21:46:55 +0000
<![CDATA[Cigar Review: Oliva Serie V]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog/cigar-review-oliva-serie-v.html Believe it or not, Cadillac was once revered as the maker of the finest automobiles on the road. There was literally nothing better out there. If you wanted luxury and had the money, you bought a Cadillac. Thus Cadillac and luxury became synonymous with each other, and not only that, but it was a metaphor for "the best." If you were buying the finest watch, you would call it "The Cadillac of watches." A high-end golf club would be referred to as "The Cadillac of golf clubs." The sad thing is, over the years the Cadillac name sort of fell by the wayside. Other luxury cars emerged that were even better than Cadillacs and had even more luxurious features. The wealthy began purchasing expensive imports and leaving the Cadillac legacy to slowly fade as time went on. Nevertheless, that familiar metaphor never disappeared. "The Cadillac of..." is still readily used today to refer to the best of the best. And yes, Cadillac is still quite a luxurious make of automobiles. What does this mean? A true legacy never disappears completely. The shifting of the limelight is no indication of better or worse. Greatness comes and goes, but the things that are truly legendary will always stand the test of time. Such is the case with one of the greatest cigars ever blended, the infamous Oliva Serie V.

Enough of all this car talk. We are here to discuss stogies, right? Well, first off, a little background. The Oliva Cigar Company dates back to the 1800s. At the time, patriarch Melanio Oliva began growing tobacco on a humble farm in Cuba, circa 1886. Fast-forward to just over half a century later and the grandson, Gilberto Oliva, makes the emigration to Spain with his family following the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Years later, he relocated to the sunny land of Nicaragua with hopes and dreams of reentering the tobacco business that his grandfather had worked so hard at. This he did, going through many of his own storms along the way. During his journey, Gilberto Oliva grew tobacco in several countries, including Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and the Philippines. Things progressed, far more slowly than surely, but by 1995 (some 30 or so years later) the Gilberto Oliva brand of cigars was launched, as the Oliva family evolved from simply growing and selling tobacco to manufacturing their own cigars. While some may consider this a huge achievement, a rocky road lay ahead of Gilberto Oliva and company, and things got worse before they got better.

The first cigars produced under the Oliva name were rolled in one of Nestor Plasencia's factories in Honduras. They were decent cigars, but we are talking about the mid-90s, a.k.a. "The Cigar Boom," and "decent" just wasn't gonna cut it. Struggling to hold on, Oliva cigars (now shortened from "Gilberto Oliva Cigars") miraculously survived the era, despite the rise and fall of numerous startup brands. Surviving on hopes, dreams, and a fairly large stockpile of aging tobacco grown years earlier by the family, Oliva Cigars began producing value-priced sticks that appealed to a pretty big audience. In addition, the cigar world's fascination with Nicaraguan tobacco was beginning to grow, and Oliva became somewhat of a go-to for such coveted cultivated currency. By 2003, the once struggling Oliva Cigar Company opened the doors of a brand new factory in Esteli, the city now considered to be the epicenter of Nicaraguan cigar production. A mere 2 years later and Oliva was producing over 6 million cigars a year, going from struggling to exist to struggling to keep up with demand. Although the vast majority of Oliva-produced cigars were Oliva-branded product, the company was making cigars for a number of other brands as well. The Oliva family was now achieving phenomenal success, and things were only going uphill, as production more than doubled over the next 4 years!

Today, Oliva Cigar Company, run by Gilberto's children, is among the most dominant monsters in all of the cigar business, selling various products in 18 countries and collaborating with other brands on a regular basis. They are the second largest grower of Nicaraguan Cuban seed tobacco and have made leaps and bounds in the cigar production process, churning out Top 10-rated cigars on a yearly basis. In 2014, in fact, Serie V Melanio (the original Serie V's successor) was given the prestigious title of "Number 1 Cigar of the Year" by Cigar Aficionado, considered by many to be the highest honor a cigar or cigar manufacturer can receive. It's no secret that Oliva Cigars is among the greatest cigar companies in history. But what exactly is the cigar they are most well known for? What "put them on the map," so to speak?

Every company has a flagship. That one thing that they're known for. In the cigar world, just one cigar can become what an entire brand is synonymous with. For Oliva Cigars, the flagship couldn't be any more obvious. No matter where you read about Oliva Cigars, one reference ALWAYS pops up right next to the name: Serie V.

Oliva Serie V was born in 2007 and has been offered in as many as 13 different sizes and styles over the years, though 7 vitolas are considered regular production, the most popular being the 6 x 56 Torpedo and the 6 x 60 Figurado, both of which have received countless 90+ ratings as time has passed. Serie V is a true Nicaraguan puro, meaning all the tobacco is grown and cured in Nicaragua, wrapper, filler, and binder. Made entirely of high priming ligero leaves, known for extremely full body and immense flavor, Serie V is known for its rich intensity and bold flavor profile. The wrapper leaf is one of the most gorgeous Habano Sun Grown wrappers known to man, and one of the strongest at that. Oliva Serie V is one of a handful of cigars that began the Powerhouse movement. At that time, standard full-bodied cigars began to be known as medium-bodied, as cigars such as Serie V pushed the limits of strength to levels intolerable to some. Nevertheless, the flavor was undeniable, and very shortly after its introduction, Serie V became known as one of the world's finest cigars. Less than a year later, the coveted Serie V Torpedo was named "Number 4 Cigar of the Year," carrying an unbelievable 94-rating by Cigar Aficionado. This began a frenzy, and over the next few years Serie V was a VERY difficult cigar to get a hold of. Something about the luxury of smoking an Oliva Serie V seems to mesmerize whoever happens to be enjoying it. It's rich, powerful, and decadent, yet smooth as silk all the way down. At the time, there wasn't a comparable cigar available. Serie V became an instant legend.

It is said that Serie V is meticulously rolled by only a handful of the top rollers at the Oliva factory. Whether this is true or not, I don't know, but I believe it. The construction of Serie V is amazing. Looking over the cigar, there seems to be one solid tobacco leaf with no seams holding the stick together. The appearance of the oily Habano leaf is near flawless, lightly splotched with somewhat of a marbling of dark brown and reddish colors. The luxurious gold and brown band perfectly compliments the appearance of the cigar itself. The draw is on-point, but I must throw out a recommendation that may cause some snobby connoisseurs to cringe: Let the cigar dry out a bit before smoking it. Trust me on this one. The leaves that compose the Serie V were never meant to be used to fully construct a cigar in times past. Ligero leaves were simply added to filler blends for flavor enhancement. To build a cigar ENTIRELY of ligero means big time potential for draw and burn issues due to the very heavy oil and moisture content of the leaves. Is this usually the case with Serie V? Not usually, as the Serie V is expertly rolled, but I still recommend to allow it to sit in open air for 3-7 days before cutting and enjoying. For me, anyways, it makes a huge difference and leads to far fewer re-lights. That being said, let's get to that enjoying part.

At first light, Serie V explodes like a grenade full of white pepper and cinnamon. There's really no other way to describe it. The cigar screams as it burns, blasting the palate with a peppery storm and forcing the one smoking to question the decision to light it. Then, just as quickly as it started, things start to change. The pepper storm subsides, leaving opportunity for the other flavors in the vastly complex bouquet to make their presence known. Burning through the first 2 thirds of the cigar, bold flavors of coffee and chocolate coat the palate, along with sweet hints of floral tobacco lingering in the background. Black cherry and licorice become apparent as the profile begins to change from sweet and spicy to earthy and smoky. A cedary blast isn't uncommon from time to time, beautifully complimenting the sweet notes presented by the intense ligero tobacco.

The first 2 thirds are enjoyable, smooth, pleasant, and full, though never close to overpowering. But what about the final third? Well, there are those that finish a cigar and those that, well, miss out. Determining what missing out means to you is a matter of opinion. As far as Serie V goes, I recommend nubbing it, as I do, all the way down until it stops smoking. Will this make you dizzy? Maybe, but that's a small price to pay for getting to enjoy the finishing characteristics of a Serie V. For those of you with guts, let's get to that final third.

The flavor has now gone from sweet and spicy to earthy, smoky, somewhat bitter, and very, very intense. Slight tar build-up is noticeable, as can be expected from an all-ligero cigar, but to me, it only adds to the character of the cigar. See, with sticks like the Serie V, its kind of like smoking 2 cigars in one. The first cigar is flavorful and pleasant and the second is nothing short of mind numbing in terms of power. Chopping down a Serie V is a good sign that you're a strength junkie, so that mind-numbing power overtaking the complex flavor profile is probably a welcomed exchange. At this point, leather, tobacco, and oak are more the feel of the flavor profile. Oh, and nicotine. Lots of nicotine. Let's face it, Serie V has been a heavy hitter from day one. People that want something mild and easy-going most likely won't even touch one. Those aficionados, though. Those manly men. That rare breed of cigar freak that has no fear, this is the crowd that has made Serie V what it is today. Final notes on the tasting: bitter dark chocolate and more pepper as the cigar comes to an end, and throughout the experience, heavy coffee and spice on the retrohale. There really isn't much more to say about Serie V, other than the fact that it's just beautiful. Simply beautiful. From beginning to end, it's so easy to see how this stick has gotten such attention over the years. All the 90 ratings, all the top 10 appearances, all the magazine covers, it all makes such perfect sense while experiencing what this amazing cigar really is. The legacy of the Serie V is virtually unmatched by any other cigar on today's market.

Oliva Serie V pairs very well with a number of beverages, including coffee, dark rum, single-malt scotch, dark beer, and Tawny port. My recommendation is to enjoy it after a big meal. Like any strong cigar, Serie V can cause dizziness and even nausea if smoked on an empty stomach. It makes a phenomenal celebration cigar as well, so long as whoever is celebrating with you is briefed on the power of the stick. Other cigars from the Powerhouse Movement that may be considered similar include Ashton VSG, San Cristobal, and Don Pepin Blue Label. Serie V Melanio is the little brother of Serie V, and is definitely worth a try in addition. It’s been nearly a decade since the Serie V's inception, and after all these years it's still going strong.

What gets me, though, is that Serie V has been living in the shadows in recent years. Other big names have stolen the limelight, new luxury cigars seem to take the high ratings and top spots on the "Best of" lists. Cigar freaks are looking to other cigars to fulfill their search of a high-end stogie that reeks of luxury. Stronger sticks come out yearly, even further pushing away the recent memory of Oliva Serie V. It may be said that the monster has gone to sleep. However, the monster isn't sleeping. Serie V is still here, it's still selling like crazy, and it's still considered one of the finest, most luxurious cigars ever made. Pictures of the Serie V may not be on the covers of the cigar magazines. People aren't flashing photos of them enjoying a Serie V on social media. But in reality, the legend continues. I chose to write about Oliva Serie V because I feel like it isn't talked about enough these days. I wanted to revive an interest and a new following of people that maybe haven't tried a Serie V, or maybe even haven't heard of it. But I didn't need to. Oliva Serie V is a flagship. It's a mainstay in the humidors of millions of connoisseurs. It's a favorite go-to for a decently priced ultra-premium, full-bodied cigar. After all, the shifting of the limelight is no indication of better or worse. True legends never die. Oliva Serie V is, always has been, and always will be the Cadillac of Cigars.

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 13:56:07 +0000
<![CDATA[Cigar Review: Kristoff Premium Selection Natural]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog/cigar-review-kristoff-premium-selection-natural.html The types of cigars found in reviews tend to fall into two broad categories: the legendary and the hyped. The first of course are those cigars that everyone already knows about and wants to own/smoke, but due to either cost or limited availability are out of reach for many. So it is that the lucky reviewer, out of a sense of duty to fellow aficionados, must sacrifice a coveted stick to the fire gods and report back on the secrets of life revealed during the pilgrimage. You will also find those few instances where a particular cigar is reputed to be infamously bad and a review is undertaken as a rite of passage, or perhaps a dark ritual of purification where only the strong and steadfast will emerge unbroken at the end of the ordeal.

This is neither of those types of review.

The second category, the hyped cigar, accounts for the vast majority of reviews whether written or recorded. Most often these are the latest releases from popular brands, or a new company has hit the scene running, or a sleeper has become a hit, but the purpose is the same. The hope of the reviewer is to find the next big thing, a cigar that has the potential to rise to the legendary heights mentioned above. How exciting the possibility to be there at the beginning, an intrepid explorer uncovering a new treasure and shouting the news from atop the mountains. That it is rare to find ‘The One’ is beside the point, because a cigar has been smoked and (hopefully) enjoyed and we are all wiser for the information gleaned.

This is not that type of review either.

Instead, this is a review of the Kristoff Premium Selection Natural Matador, an everyday, run-of-the-mill bundled Toro-sized Dominican Puro that may or may not contain mixed filler. Truly an undistinguished stogie, but there are a variety of reasons and locations to have such a cigar on hand: A sturdy and reliable stick able to survive being left on the tee box during a round of golf. Something tasty to allay the boredom while not catching anything during a fishing expedition. An idiot repellent during a block party. A tool to fend off that sinking feeling when your humidor is about to run dry. Enough justification for ya? Good. Let’s get to it.

Details: Handmade Dominican made of all Dominican tobaccos, including Dominican filler, Dominican binder, and a wrapper from the Dominican Republic. That’s all I got.

Pre-light impressions: Definitely feels like a mixed filler cigar because there’s a bit of flex beneath the fingertips up and down the length, but I’ve run into this with some supposedly high-end sticks so it’s not definitive. It’s consistently formed and not spongy so I’m not concerned about a dud but I do need to be careful not to smoke fast lest it get too hot as can happen with this amount of filler regardless of longleaf or sandwich. Even so I estimate around an hour of smoking time. Let’s see if that holds.

The honeymoon period: Some bits of tobacco on the tongue as I start to smoke, more evidence of filler type, but the draw is good and the flavor pleasing if not overly complex. It’s mostly cedar and cream, with a mild white pepper and just a hint of nutmeg through the nose. No sweetness anywhere, but the fact that it’s a Dominican cigar with a ‘Natural’ wrapper makes this unsurprising. Burn line is straight enough to not require my getting involved, going only slightly askew as I work into the first couple of inches. So yeah, it’s not the kind of smoke I’d normally reach for on an early Autumn evening to savor, but for those times I’d rather not think about what I’m smoking it would have a place.

Houston, we’ve got a problem: There’s plenty of smoke but I’ve started to notice some odd bitter flavors as the second third begins to smolder. It’s almost herbaceous but not in a good way. The ash is a light gray and holding well even if a little flaky (more evidence of filler type?) and the cherry isn’t outpacing the burn line so I’m not puffing too quickly. A mystery and I hope this isn’t going to last because if so I’ll be putting this Kristoff to bed early.

Well past the half: I decided that majority of the off flavors were the fault of my beverage choice, which was a hoppy red pale ale. I should have known it wouldn’t be the best choice because high IBUs can be tricky to pair with cigars, which is why I usually stay safe and go either light and crisp or dark and syrupy depending on the stick. Hops can wreak havoc on a palate. For my next round I substituted a malty and lightly sweet maple ale nearly the same color as the first but with a completely different profile. This decision salvaged the entire affair by creating a nice counterpoint to the touches of coffee and leather I could now discern.

Final impressions: It you’re anywhere on the East coast you’ve been getting plenty wet lately and despite the promising afternoon weather I still got caught in an early evening mist and so the Kristoff Premium Selection gave up the ghost with a good inch and a half left to go. I considered trying a relight but the beer was getting low and there wasn’t any indication I’d be discovering a pot of gold in the nub so I let it be. Still, smoking time ended up being about an hour and ten so I have that going for me. It’s not a special occasion cigar, but it doesn’t have to be. A sturdy standby I found this to be with a straightforward flavor profile, not a ton of transitions and a pleasant amount of smoke to be had. It wasn't overpowering, harsh or as we found it, it wasn't the cigar itself that was bitter, it was the play off the beer I was drinking with it initially that caused the bitter notes to emerge. I’ll stand by my original statement regarding the appropriate places to enjoy on of these smokes. Again, I'll reach for one of these when heading out for the golf course, to hand to one of my mooching friends, when mowing the lawn, or when my humidor is running low on my finer smokes and I'm fearing I might have to set it down due to weather, the spouse calling me in for dinner, the kids needing me for some reason or another or any other such issue, or while puttering around the garage. As it gets colder, in the North, this Kristoff Premium Selection Natural or it's sibling in the Maduro wrapper, might be good sticks to keep on hand when you just aren't sure how long you're going to be able to brave that cold front coming in...

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 14:50:15 +0000
<![CDATA[How to Make a Tupperdor]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog/how-to-make-a-tupperdor.html Running out of room in your humidor and not sure what you’re going to do? New to the cigar hobby and not sure if you’re going to stick with it to justify the expense of a humidor just yet? Need some temporary storage for your cigars while you re-season your humidor? All of these and more are great reasons for creating your own homemade humidor for cigars or a "tupperdor." What exactly is a tupperdor you ask? Well that’s pretty simple. It’s any hard plastic container that has an airtight seal that is being used as a humidor. It’s named as such because they were originally made from Tupperware brand containers but nowadays people use Rubbermaid, Gladware, Lock and Lock, The Container Store, Ziploc and all sorts of other brands of containers yet we still call them Tupperdors.

Tupperdors are extremely popular for a few reasons but mostly because they are incredibly cheap to set up no matter what size you need. I got this 60 quart Ziploc WeatherShield container at Walmart for $15.56. It has blue foam weather stripping built into the lid to keep dust, moisture and bugs and such out but most importantly for our purposes is that it does a FANTASTIC job at keeping the humidity IN! Now this Tupperdor doesn’t have too many cigars in it at the moment as it’s only my personal overflow storage that I keep at the office for incoming and outgoing forum (mostly Reddit r/cigars) trades, bombs, passes and then secondly my smoking stash.

Small Tupperdor Lid (Click and Lock Brand) 60Qt Tupperdor Lid Corner (Ziploc WeatherShield)

Normally, I’d use Boveda packs in my Tupperdors as they’re a set it and forget it solution but I was out when I set up this Tupperdor. I did have an extra Xikar Crystal Humidifier Jar though so I used that. I’ve added a few cedar spills and blocks to help absorb the excess humidity given off by the jar and we’re sitting pretty right now at 70.8%. My temperature is a bit high at 74.1 degrees but there isn’t much I can do about that here in our office unless I move the Tupperdor into the warehouse where we keep the temps cooler.

To monitor my humidor normally, I’d toss in a Xikar Digital Hygrometer and call it a day but the fine folks over at Sensor Push hooked me up with a Bluetooth enabled monitoring sensor to play with over the last few months and I have to say that for a tech geek like me, I’m thoroughly impressed. There will be a separate full review post the pros and cons of the Sensor Push another day but I have to say, it does the job it’s designed for and overall, I love the darn little thing.I’ve also included a Xikar Humi-Fan but only because a customer had some questions about how one worked so we had one open for in-house testing and once it’s opened we’d never sell it. So, since it was laying around and this Tupperdor doesn’t get opened ALL that often, I’ve elected to keep this in there to help circulate the air. This piece however, is totally optional and not necessary at all!

I also have a smaller generic $1 store Lock and Lock style container that I got sent by a customer actually. You can find any number of these brands starting on this link at Amazon.com He wanted to send me some special thanks for creating for him some custom samplers. So he decided to send me a custom sampler of sorts and much of what you’ll see in it is still from the stash he sent me. In there, I don’t monitor humidity or temperature because it’s got Boveda packs in it and they’re idiot proof. Also, that tupperdor is much smaller and the risk of losing only a handful of sticks isn’t a huge deal plus I’m in and out of it much more often so I’d know if cigars are feeling or smoking dry or not. But they aren’t so, I’m not too worried about it.

So to review, to make a tupperdor, all we need is an airtight plastic container, some Boveda packs (find out how many to use and lots of other useful info about them here,) and the Spanish cedar is optional. If you need some Spanish cedar, just put a note on your next order with us to include some and we should be able to honor your request. It only takes a sheet or two to help your cigars with that awesome smell and obviously to balance humidity if you aren’t using Boveda packs. Toss in some cigars and you are good to go. Now, you might wonder why we’d tell you about this super economical way to store your cigars when we’re in the business of selling humidors. You see, most brothers and sisters of the leaf still have a traditional humidor or three because they like the look, got them as gifts or for a multitude of other reasons, but have rapidly outgrown them and are looking for large storage on the cheap and fast. Besides, skipping the 300-1000 count cabinet that costs a pretty penny and is a pain to arrange delivery for, often keeps the spouses happier. We’re happy to sell you the accessories you need to maintain the Tupperdors and to aid in the CAD (Cigar Acquisition Disorder for those of you wondering,) to fill them as well.

Until next time folks, the Ninja is out!

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 19:30:39 +0000
<![CDATA[Cigar Review: Arturo Fuente Sungrown]]> http://cigarplace.biz/blog/cigar-review-arturo-fuente-sungrown.html When you hear the name Fuente, what comes to mind? Well, if you’ve had any dabbling whatsoever in the world of fine cigars, you’d probably say that Fuente is a legendary name in the world of tobacco. And you’d be right! Recognized worldwide for unbeatable quality and value, the Arturo Fuente brand is revered for always being at the top of the food chain when it comes to premium cigars. In fact, Arturo Fuente is among the top 3 best-selling cigar brands in America, and usually resides at numero uno. But why? Perhaps it’s their near flawless quality and consistency. Maybe it’s the exotic flavor profiles that are blended with surgical precision. Or, maybe it’s the fact that when it comes to bang for the buck, Fuente does it like no other. I’m convinced that among all other things, that third point really stands out more than the others. A basic Fuente can be had for around $5-6 at the time of this article, something that can’t be said of most of the hot boutique brands and new names in the business today. As a matter of fact, Fuente is more or less the most affordable and available of all the old school brands that survived the cigar boom as well. Whether you’re a true cigar snob that just wants a cheap afternoon smoke or a beginner that wants the best cigar for the least amount of money, Arturo Fuente is a universal go-to.

Arturo Fuente Sun Grown Flor Fina 8-5-8 in Cello

But it can’t be just about the money, right? Ok, well to further support the sheer dominance the Fuente brand has boasted over the years, it can be said that, while the current available options in the Fuente portfolio are few compared to some brands, every single cigar marked with the Fuente name is absolutely incredible. The Fuentes are somewhat of a rare species when it comes to blending prowess and the uncanny ability to fine-tune tobacco recipes. There’s something about Fuente cigars that just makes them different from the rest. It could be called a combination of old fashioned cigar taste mixed with modern bouquets of gourmet nuances. Or we could just be simple and say that the Fuente cigars are darned good smokes. Yea, we’ll go with that.

Founded by Cuban immigrant Arturo Fuente, Sr. in Tampa, Florida in 1912, the Fuente brand is among the oldest of all. The family has faced their fair share of adversity over the past century or so, but nevertheless they always come back stronger and better. Many times, the turmoil turns into incredible success, as was the case with the Anejo line of cigars, but that’s a whole other story altogether. In 1958, Carlos Fuente, Sr. took over the brand, demonstrating amazing leadership throughout the next several decades as the Fuente name became known as one of the best non-Cuban cigar brands in the world following the embargo. Some 50-plus years later, Carlos Fuente Sr. still oversaw the operation until his passing in August of 2016. His son Carlito works hard as the head honcho of the brand. It’s no small deal, either. The Arturo Fuente company pounds out more than 30 million cigars per year! That’s a ton of tobacco to keep track of.

Arturo Fuente Sungrown Flor Fina 8-5-8 En Cedro

So when people talk Fuente cigars, it’s always regarding one of two things: Either the affordable, uber-available original line that can be bought for a few bucks literally anywhere that sells tobacco, from gas stations to liquor stores to your favorite cigar shop, or the Opus X, which is basically the exact opposite. Finding one in a brick and mortar store is basically the equivalent to finding a winning lottery ticket on your front lawn in the morning, and if you did happen to come across an Opus X in a store, you’d need that winning lottery ticket to pay the insane price tag, sometimes soaring as high as $50-100 per stick, based on availability. But what about the rest? What about all the amazing sticks in-between the first and last pages of the Fuente portfolio? Nobody ever seems to mention the Hemingway, Don Carlos, Magnum Rosado, or Casa Cuba. And what gets me the most is that nobody ever says a word about what I consider to be the absolute best value of all on today’s cigar market: The Arturo Fuente Sungrown series. So today, I’m gonna give this amazing cigar a proper rave.

Arturo Fuente Sungrown Flor Fina 8-5-8 Band

The Fuente Sungrown cigars come packaged in gorgeous flat wooden boxes (with the exception of the once-rare 858 size) and are adorned with cedar sleeves. The iconic black band at the foot of the cigar makes it easy to tell it’s a sungrown. Also, the main band is red, gold, and black, as opposed to red, gold, and green on the original series, or white on the Anejos. Commonly referred to as “Reserve Sun Grown” or “Chateau Series,” the Fuente Sungrown consists of Dominican filler and binder tobaccos and a dark, oily Ecuadorian sungrown wrapper leaf. The stick almost looks like a maduro, but the flavor is more than enough to tell that it’s something extra special. It’s available in a variety of sizes, too many to list, in fact, but the most popular sizes seem to be the King B, a 6 x 55 Torpedo that smokes cool and long, the Cuban Belicoso, a 5 3/4 x 52 Belicoso that is rich and powerful, so much so that it’s usually referred to as the “poor man’s Opus X,” and of course the iconic Sungrown 858, a 6 x 47 Toro that up until the past year has been considered an exotic Fuente, along the same lines as the Anejo or Opus X, but thankfully is readily available now. I’ll say that I’m as big a rare Fuente fan as just about anyone you’ll ever meet, but if I have an Opus X craving, the Sungrown 858 usually does the trick of satisfying it in the event that my rare Fuente stash is at a low point. Yes, it’s THAT good.

Arturo Fuente Sun Grown Flor Fina 8-5-8

After removing the foot band and cedar sleeve, the Fuente Sungrown has a pre-light aroma of sweet Spanish cedar mixed with premium raw tobacco. It truly is amazing how much extra character the cedar sleeve imparts to this already phenomenal stick. The outer wrapper leaf literally glistens with oils and boasts long roadmaps of veins and a toothy texture. Despite its rugged appearance, there is an element of luxurious opulence that comes to mind when handling this gorgeous piece of tobacco art. Every cigar is packed just right--tight enough to hold a long ash, loose enough to get boatloads of thick, white smoke on every puff. Construction-wise, the Fuente Sungrown is a cut above all others. The thing about the Fuente family is that they treat each and every cigar as if it’s their very best, meaning that there is no distinction in quality between the regular lines and the exotics, as is the case with many other cigar manufacturers. A few dry puffs reveal a rich, chocolatey flavor. That’s only a teaser though. The best is yet to come.

Arturo Fuente Sungrown Flor Fina 8-5-8 Black and White

The first light of a Fuente Sungrown is truly a memorable experience. A potent blast of cedar opens the show, soon followed by a bombardment of spicy white pepper from the robust sungrown wrapper leaf. These two flavors are the basis upon which the entire profile rests; they stay constant throughout the smoke from beginning to end. After about an inch or so, the intensity goes from a solid 9 to about a 7, as the smooth Dominican filler blend takes over. From this point on, the amazing sweet and earthy flavors that Fuente is so well-known for really make themselves apparent. The intensity of the cigar settles at this point and remains the same until the last couple inches(if you make it that far), at which point it increases once again to about a 9 on a scale of 1-10. For now, though, during the second, third, and most of the fourth quarter of the experience, things get really pleasant. There are all the things that make a high-end Fuente what it is: floral notes, fruity nuances, hints of chocolate and honey, and even some molasses-like flavors here and there. As with any upper-level Fuente, the true complexity of the cigar is experienced through the retrohale, or blowing the smoke through your nose. Admittedly, only experienced connoisseurs should attempt to retrohale, as it can be a memorably painful experience if done improperly. Nevertheless, the smoke delivers amazing hints of raisin and sweet tobacco flowers as it glides through the nose, making for an undeniably dessert-like finish on each puff. Approaching the last couple inches of the cigar, the strength really begins to build up to an almost overwhelming level. It’s during this time, however, that the blending expertise of the Fuentes really shines, as even though the raw strength is almost too much to handle, there is never so much as a hint of harshness or bitterness. It’s velvety smooth until the very last tongue-tingling puff. From first light to last puff, the parallels between the Fuente Sungrown and the infamous Opus X are undeniable. The two cigars are so similar it’s almost bizarre that the price of the Fuente Sungrown is so low.

Arturo Fuente Sungrown Flor Fina 8-5-8

Wait a minute, what was that? Low price? Oh yeah, I bet during this review you thought I was describing a $20 cigar, right? Well, the best part about the Fuente Sungrown series, aside from the amazing exotic Fuente flavor profile and standard-setting quality, is that they can usually be had for $6-8 a pop, usually less if bought by the box. Yes, you read that right, typo-prone as I may be, there’s no mistake here. The Fuente Sungrown series offers an ultra-premium smoking experience in a Dominican-made, hand-rolled cigar that uses a sungrown wrapper leaf, presented in a wooden box, individually clothed with a cedar sleeve, that has a flavor profile similar to the most sought-after cigar on earth, all for just $6-8 per stick. If that’s not as good as it gets regarding value, I have absolutely no idea what is.

Arturo Fuente Sungrown Flor Fina 8-5-8 Nubbed Band

In conclusion, the Fuente Sungrown series is, both in my opinion and that of many others “in the know,” the very best bang for your buck value available on today’s cigar market. While not a beginner’s cigar, anyone with a year or two of experience under their belt will be able to really enjoy everything that makes the Fuente Sungrown as special as it is. If you’ve been enjoying fine cigars for years but still haven’t tried a Fuente Sungrown, it’s forgivable. It’s somewhat of a hidden gem among the true connoisseurs. But now you know, so there’s no excuse not to try one. Get your hands on one and see what you’ve been missing!

Mon, 22 Aug 2016 14:00:05 +0000