Georges Reserve Cigars

Working from home today while my wife gears up for her job interviews as a result of some successful sorcery, I decided to have a cigar on the deck and take in the nice weather. With a high of 40F out here, it’s practically spring in Pennsylvania. I threw my laptop on the deck and got connected and then went to grab a cigar.

Figuring I would get roped into hanging out with the kids at some points today, I wanted a cigar I could put down and not feel too terribly bad when/if it went out. Opening up the humidor I found a Georges Reserve Churchhill. Looking at the label and remembering I got it from Famous Smoke in a bundle, I figured it was probably a generic stick. I grabbed it, used my trusty knife and lighter to cap it and took a draw. It tasted like tea. Hmmm, the generic crap usually doesn’t taste like tea or have such a nice draw…

The smoke itself was easy, creamy, and had a wonderful depth of flavor. Unlike other cigars in the generic category, it left a bit of spice in my mouth and really had no offensive taste. Dare I say, it was downright good. In fact, it was so good I decided to look it up to see if I could get more.

Turns out they’re made by Olivia and sell for $5 a stick. Oops. That’s why I like them. Cameroon wrapper is almost always a win for me, even if I don’t always like Connecticut filler. That particular filler usually errs on the side of cigarette to me, Virginia especially. I am not huge on American (colonial) tobacco, but this one was really good and has me thinking I might be missing something.

That being said, I smoked it straight through the nub, and the thing just kept getting better. If you can find one for under $5 (or even $7) a stick, give it a smoke.

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I’m Paying for it Today

A good buddy got married and I couldn’t say no to the bar. I get home from that and continue that trend of celebration with Jon’s bottle of hangover juice. This came with the warning: THIS IS NOT SCOTCH, THIS IS HANGOVER JUICE.

Needless to say I was like “I’ve been drinking all weekend, I’ll be fine.”

OH NO WE ARE NOT FINE. WHY DIDN’T I LISTEN?

To add insult to injury, the cigar I was enjoying by the window rode the draft back in so now kelly says the place stinks (ideas?) and when I went to go to bed, I stepped in a delicious pile of cat puke.

Well, at least it’s just a rental.

Buying Cigar Seconds

I recently, for $35, got Rocky Patel seconds and La Aurora seconds. I’m actually not sure about the La Aurora ones because the guy at the shop said he didn’t know the SKU, but “that’s where they’re supposed to be!” I’m almost 100% sure they are not la aurora cigars, the size, shape, look and base flavors are all wrong.

OK. Whatever. For the price, I can throw out 2/3rds of them and still be happy.

Both of these happened to be on the dry side, which I take is because they sat out somewhere before they were bundled and sold. This review should also serve as a cautionary tale. And, just because these are seconds from Rocky Patel or La Aurora, please don’t take them as an indication of the common quality of the individual brands. If you’re buying seconds, they should be for a party, or friends, or any other channel where there’s going to be disbursement and you don’t want to shell out $100 for a box. These are “party cigars”, for a party I’ve got planned, but I didn’t want to buy generic crap I knew would be terrible.

The cigars come in a bundle which is tightly wrapped (hence the humidification issues) without humidification device enclosed. I’m told this is standard, but tightly wrapping them drives out the moisture. They also come unlabeled, but the Rocky Patel seconds had the trademark CHOCOLATE scent. I cut up some labels I had laying around to label the cigars. The La Auroras may or may not be seconds. To be frank, I think the SKU was wrong because they don’t really smell or taste like La Auroras. Not even close. The Rocky Patel ones you can tell are RPs from the scent and appearance.

La Aurora Frauds – Starts out tasting like trash the first third, if you let it go slowly this quickly goes really light and sweet, but then quickly turns back into trash for the last third.

Rocky Patel Seconds – Tastes like a Rocky Patel. No major complaints except that the burn is really uneven on the one I tried. The chocolate taste is there, but subdued. In fact, I think I like the seconds more than I like their actual offering because it tastes like… tobacco with chocolate rather than CHOCOLATE. I realize it’s not the effect he was going for.

So, now I’m left with 24 cigars of each I plan on bringing to a party of average quality, the fakie La Auroras need a ton of time in the humidor since they brought the RH down to 60% (probably why it tastes like trash), but the Rocky’s are a good solid choice. (Tossed three for smelling weird). Incidentally I decided to take advantage of the dryness of the LA counterfeits and try dipping. I took some black cherry rum, put a bit into a shotglass, and dipped the tip. The result was a nice cherry taste which later gave way to caramel. Not bad. If these LA fakies don’t improve before the party, they’ll be dippers.

The Jarmidor: Performance Monitoring

I was up at Pet Smart buying cat food since the cats have managed to eat us out of house and home yet again and I happened to be looking at the reptiles.

Suddenly, inspiration struck. Reptiles need the right temperature, because they are cold blooded, but they also live in a humid, humid rainforest. What else lives in a tropical climate?

Free range cigars, that’s what.

I wandered over to the reptile aisle and sure enough there were enough hygrometers to monitor every planet in the solar system. (About 9). Now, people commonly complain the hygrometer in their humidor is crap and can be as far as 10% off. To figure out if we’re buying a good one or not we need to compare. Instrumentation is one of those things where you don’t need to test it to make sure it works, the majority of it merely has to agree. In other words, if the standard deviation is small, then we know the instrument is probably mostly correct and we know about how far off they can be. For this trick, we try to buy one representing the mean value.

In my case, out of 9 of these, 8 of them agreed the humidity in the store was between 40% and 42%. One of them said 50%, so this one obviously is in error. Upon tapping them, the needle would typically settle back into the same place, so we know none of them are stuck like this and the needle is free floating. I tried to power up a digital hygrometer but it was disabled. Comparing it to the one the store uses in their cages, the humidity was 41%. I was willing to accept any hygrometer that read between 40% and 42%, which was almost all of them.

For $5 and a sample size large enough to find the ones obviously misadjusted, it’s a steal.

La Aroma De Cuba

Some cigars, I don’t understand the appeal. The most recent foray into this was La Aroma De Cuba.

Apparently it won cigar aficionado’s #5 spot for best cigar. Now, if you read and trust cigar aficionado this might be good. If you’re like me and you frankly want to find what you like, not terribly interesting. Now, I may need to revisit this one, I was also taking a briar for a test run and my taste buds may have been off after that. Also I was drinking a Stormy Night with it, so we’ve got a ton of flavors going on here. However, I tried to taste this first.

Look – Looked good, no major flaws on the wrapper. The label came off properly.

Smell – It actually smelled lighter than I expected, but it still had a good aroma.

Sadly I didn’t take the time to smell both ends of it, or lick it, but the cap end had a very neutral smell and taste. Normally when they cut the cigar, it tastes like crap. I usually work up quite a bit of spit so when I lick it I can spit the cuttings immediately. But this didn’t taste offensive.

First Thirds – The first thing I noticed was the burn was fantastic. For the first third the ash was tight and even. As far as flavors go, I got caramel notes almost immediately, which is pretty interesting since frankly most cigars taste like crap when you first light them.

Second Thirds – This is one of those cigars where you’re not sure if you should ash it or not. However, the problem was solved when I started having a hard time on the pull. I ended up ashing it, which improved things, then I ended up lancing it since it jammed up again. Disappointing, but whatever. In between all this I ended up teasing out “cake batter” (freshly baked cake) from the cigar. The problem was that I was working hard for it. While it’s an interesting flavor, the Rocky Patel “coca” is a much better execution and much easier to get a flavor out of.

Last Thirds – The other guy I was smoking with wouldn’t smoke his last thirds, I went for it and got leather out of mine for a bit, maybe cinnamon. The cigar finishes out nice and evenly and goes sour about where I put my fingers, so I would say it has a nice finish.

I dunno about this one, I have another one in my fridge but unless that one is significantly better, this one is maybe a 7 to me. Certainly I feel like you could do better with the La Aurora or Rocky Patels, but this one is still worth checking out if you’re wondering what cake batter might taste like coming in the smoke.

Rocky Patel Winter Collection

Apparently people get free cigars to review these. One of these people isn’t me.

My Rocky Patel was given to me by a buddy who wanted me to try it and to get my observations. Generally cigars in boxes should max out at about $5 per stick, $7 individually. I hate to admit it but I’ve been in the $3 range when they’re “on sale”. My jewishness preserves my health, you see.

My brother’s take on it was roughly the same as the review on her humidor, which was “leather”. Now, one thing I hate about cigar reviews is that “leather” is the generic term for “I can’t taste it”. Sort of like “pepper”, now that I’ve got this figured out I realize that “pepper” is a red flag for doing it wrong. Now, don’t get me wrong, I got a bit of leather out of the light, but then leather or earthy is what you get out of 90% of cigars on the first third. More interesting is the fact that I picked up on the chocolate aroma too. In fact, my first thoughts were TOO MUCH CHOCOLATE, just on the pull and the smell of the wrapper.

After lighting the cigar, there’s the peppery and earthy notes I come to expect. Some reviews, including my brother, called this “old leather”. I personally think most cigars on the first third taste just about the same. There’s variations on how much pepper you get out of it, but generally the first third is “earth”, “leather”, “pepper” or “cedar”.

The middle third is where the CHOCOLATE is. Did I mention this cigar featured CHOCOLATE? I might want to remind you that the cigar is made from, stored in, and pressed together with sweet, sweet CHOCOLATE. Yes, it’s got chocolate. But it’s good chocolate. It’s like coca. It reminds me of dark, creamy chocolate. Almost to the point about being boring. However, my burn by this third was way off the mark and I ended up using a torch to play catch up. Had my burn not been weird, it might have given me something else. Then again it was so chocolatey, I doubt it. I’m not saying it’s bad, and I wouldn’t fault it, just that peppery chocolate is going to be weird if you get the pacing wrong. Next time you open a packet of hot coca, smell it, and that’s the flavor. It’s really well done.

The last third gave me the generic tea flavor some cigars take on when it’s done. Soft of disappointing, I was enjoying smoking hot coca. Nothing really to write here except that it didn’t go sour, it just went bland and boring. If you like the tea flavor, this is a good way of finishing it out. Since I’ve had enough of it, I discarded the butt.

Odds and ends – The wrapper was nice. I just wish it burned better. The labeling was really nice, I think it’s classy and I loved the colors. The label, however, did not come off the wrapper nicely as the flame approached it and I had to knife-tip it off. This is after I had to clean up the uneven burn, so I’m not terribly impressed with the construction here.

I would give it an 7 out of 10: The flavor is nice, but it gets zero points for construction. The aroma is fantastic, I like the label, but the burn hurts too much to ignore. If you’re wondering if I am going to qualify cigars, it’s going to work like this: I start at 10 and every fault I find with it deducts a point based on how much it pisses me off.

Howto: Smoke a Cigar

After having a romance with cigars on and off for a year, I finally figured it out.

The one that busted my cigar cherry was la aurora barrel aged.

Fantastic stuff.

For all I wrote about smoking hookah, cigars were more macho and had the added ability of being portable. I had smoked a pipe on and off also, but the pipe tobacco never turned me on as much as the hookah.

There’s something inherently macho about smoking a cigar. Maybe it’s the early episodes of I Love Lucy where Dizzy Arnez smoked a cigar, or maybe it’s every World War 2 general with a chewed up one hanging out, but the machismo of it was always there for me.

The flavor, however, was not.

Filthadelphia here is famous for the Philly Blunt.

These are terrible, terrible cigars and I’ve come to realize that the people who smoke them do so for the wrapper. Take that how you will. It is not a good indication of a locally made product or even something you would like to consume in general. If you’re going to get into this, spend a little to get a lot. The la auroras are about $5/per.

To actually get the flavor out of a cigar, it’s the opposite of smoking a cigarette, but it’s the same idea behind the hookah. You’re not trying to burn the tobacco, you’re trying to “cook it”.

The Howto:

  1. Buy a decent cigar cutter. The plastic ones have never worked for me. If you have a razorblade, use that.
  2. Take the cigar cutter and examine the closed end of the cigar. This is called “the cap”. There’s a bit of a raised portion where they rolled it where the cap meets the body. You want to cut the cigar to leave this raised portion, and you don’t want to split the wrapper, so give yourself maybe a quarter inch of cap against the body.
  3. Put some spit in there. Not to soak it, but you do want the tobacco at the end to expand a bit to make a semblance of a filter.
  4. Take your lighter (butane/propane is OK, unlike what hellboy will tell you), and toast the end. This is where you evenly heat the end of the cigar to glowing. It may help to toke at this point but it will taste like crap.
  5. You want to barely keep the end lit. Toke a bit to “draw in” the cigar. What you’re doing is establishing ash on the end. The ash workes like a charcoal fire, it lets you very slowly draw on it while keeping the tobacco under it lit without being too hot. Do not ash a cigar.
  6. You’re doing it right if you get “spicy” and “hot” flavors from the cigar. It seems they need about an inch of ash on them before you can start tasting.
  7. When you start barely seeing a glow from the end when you take a slow draw and the ash is established, you will notice the “spicy” goes away and the cigar “cools down”. Literally. Now is the time to slowly draw the smoke in your mouth to start tasting it. The La Auroras I was smoking offered up a different flavor each draw.
  8. Roll the smoke around in your mouth, and also try drawing with your tongue in different places for different flavors. I was pleasantly suprised when I touched my tongue to the top of my mouth between draws and got “chocolate” flavor.
  9. When the cigar is about halfway done, the ash will fall off. See step six. You probably won’t need to retoast the cigar, but when you lose the ash you lose the flavor.
  10. Finally, when the cigar goes “sour”, you have two choices. The sour is from the humidity. Either be done smoking, or retoast the cigar to finish it. I found the La Auroras just gave me a “tea” flavor. While pleasant, it wasn’t terribly interesting.

Other tips:

  • The labels are thermally activated. It’s not uncommon to have them simply fall off once the cigar warms up. Make no attempt to smoke the label, but trying to get them off before the cigar heats up usually breaks the wrapper.
  • If you own guns or can bum a shell off someone, take a shell casing and sharpen it. Push a knife into the throat point-first and rotate to create a sharp rim. It’s an easy cap-cutter now and the perfect size.