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I'm always all-in when it comes to Oliva. I truly don't think they make a cigar that isn't great, and trust me I've dug deep! What's their best blend? Tough question, but Master Blends III has to be in the running. Box-pressed with a beauty of a Broadleaf wrapper around lively Ligero long-leaves, this premium is full-bodied and smooth, too!
It's time to climb to a new level of flavor. Made by AJ Fernandez in Estelí, wrapped in a dark PA Broadleaf with potent long-fillers from Nicaragua, Jacob's Ladder is loaded with spices and savory notes of charred meat, red pepper, and leather. Ascend to a better tasting blend with this all-star from Robert Holt and Southern Draw.
I haven't had to worry about going to the barber for quite some time now, so when I saw a brand called La Barba, I jumped at the chance to 'get a new do'. Their Ricochet Cru Mexi-Sol blend is a beauty to behold, and as bold and satisfying as any on the market today.
Macanudo is known for consistency across the board, but their most consistently excellent cigar is Gold Label. Smooth, creamy, and with a hint of natural sweetness, this is one elegant Connecticut Shade-wrapped delight. If you like your cigars 'easy like Sunday morning', Macanudo Gold Label is a must-have for the humidor.
With a robust multi-country recipe of long-leaves beneath a spicy Habano wrapper, Toraño Exodus 1959 dishes out the delectability with cedary notes of cinnamon, leather, and tea. The complex and balanced profile impressed me...and then some. Go on your own cigar journey today, with Toraño as your guide.
I love three things more than anything: my dog Yogi the Bear, my cat Lemmy...the Cat, and my backyard hammock. A close 4th is a good Shade-wrapped cigar, and Brick House Connecticut is one I keep going back to again and again. Burning slow, smooth, and creamy, this Nicaraguan-made beauty finishes crisp and clean every time!
This dark delight from Flores y Rodriguez is on FyR! (Literally as I'm enjoying one right now.) Packed to the brim with a tri-country recipe of top-tier tobaccos, expect a deep, rich profile. Note first the big, bold nuances of coffee and sweet cedar, then flip your wig over the decadent chocolate-covered raisin finish.
Ah, the Shade-wrapped blend that changed the way the industry looked at mellow. CAO Gold is a mellow blend, no doubt about it. But with its Nicaraguan long-leaf recipe underneath its Connecticut-seed wrapper, the results are a bit more rich and well-rounded than most of its kind. Stay gold with this stunner from CAO!
What can be said about Montecristo Classic that hasn't already? An all-time favorite, you'll be impressed with how much flavor this Churchill provides while staying smooth throughout. With a pristine Shade Grown wrapper and well-aged Dominican long-fillers, Montecristo Classic is in a class of its own!
One of my favorite premiums to bring to the cigar party, these tantalizing treats are flavorful, complexly-nuanced, and downright fun to enjoy. Expect a combination of sweet and savory to start, with enough spice, earth, and pepper to put some pep in your step! One heck of a Corojo from HC Series!
A blend born from a collaboration with Rocky Patel hitting the shelves made me realize my cigar budget is going to take a hit too! Utilizing mainly Honduran tobaccos with a leaf of Nicaraguan for good measure, this super-premium delivers notes of sweet pepper and creamy coffee that compete over a rich, cocoa finish.
Crema is everything you'd expect from Erik Espinosa—high-quality construction and a fully-nuanced profile with finesse. "But this is a Connecticut blend, and Connecticut-wrapped premiums shouldn't be this flavorful," complained no one ever! Stop with the Shade charade, and grab the Cremas of the crop, today!
Here's a cigar worth investing in! The Banker is medium to full-bodied and, just like the stock market, alternates between some intense moments and periods of smooth stability. This balance between bold spices and pleasant, creamy nuances makes The Banker a blend that never loses its value in your regular rotation.
Comfortably Numb Vol.1 is a morsel that is fun, flavorful, and refined. Numb's nuances come and go in casual complexity. The blend's subtleties of sweetness fade just before a chorus of spices reset the tempo, keeping perfect time and balance. You'll find the fine-tuned finish features more notes than a David Gilmour guitar solo.
Man O' War Virtue is anything but your standard Connecticut blend. Covered in an Ecuador Connecticut leaf, this cigar utilizes Nicaraguan long-fillers and just the right amount of ligero. This combination gives Virtue an added kick of spice, along with notes of bread, leather, and toasted almond. Fully satisfying from head to foot.
This maduro is made with a blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran long-fillers, wrapped with a Connecticut Broadleaf. With an impressive flavor profile, REO has a chewy, savory quality. You can expect semi-sweet notes of cocoa, fruit, and a hint of cinnamon. Great construction at an affordable price, this cigar is REOlly good!
This collaboration between Altadis and AJ Fernandez has produced a cigar that boasts a classic character with a modern look and feel. on the surface, you'll find an Ecuador Sumatra wrapper with Dominican and Nicaraguan long-leaves secured beneath. This cigar is complex and spicy, with creamy notes of oak, cocoa, and cashew.
Gilberto Reserva Blanc is Oliva’s newest release since 2012, and it’s well worth the wait. This mellow to medium-bodied blend sports a golden Ecuador Connecticut wrapper which encases Nicaraguan long-leaf. A classic Connecticut profile with notes of cashew, cream, and a bit of graham cracker.
For those of you familiar with Gispert, you know that its original blend is on the mellow to medium side. It’s a great cigar that’s well made and has elegant notes of cream and leather, but it’s not exactly the most complex cigar you’ll ever enjoy, and while I appreciate this cigar’s accessibility, I like something with a little more oomph. Apparently others feel the same, and Gispert heard the calls for a bolder blend. The company collaborated with tobacco master AJ Fernandez, who has quite the track record for making beautifully complex, full-bodied cigars. After careful planning and meticulous sampling, AJ and Gispert released Intenso to please the masses.
Intenso’s Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper is a deep chestnut brown and has a rustic quality to it. That’s the nature of this leaf: it’s thick, leathery, and tough as nails, adding a natural spice and sweetness that no other tobacco offers. Tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican comprise the filler, and when combined with the Broadleaf wrapper, it produces prominent tasting notes of oak, espresso, and leather. It’s bolder than the original for sure, and more complex, but it won’t knock you off your feet with spice and strength. I’ve partaken in a few of these, and I intend to enjoy many more. This cigar is a great collaboration from Gispert and AJ Fernandez, one which I would highly recommend trying.
Romeo y Julieta is a brand that needs no introduction. It’s had staying power in a crowded field, simply because its cigars are timeless blends that enthusiasts have flocked to for over 130 years. The brand wanted to appeal to enthusiasts who prefer bolder flavors, so it branched out a few years ago with its Romeo line-up. Which brings us to its newest release: Romeo 505
Named for Nicaragua’s country code, 505 is distinct among the brand’s portfolio for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the only Romeo blend that is primarily sourced in Nicaragua. Secondly, it’s a lot bolder than any of the brand’s offerings to date. A combination of rich fillers from Jalapa, Esteli, and Condega are wrapped in a dark and oily Habano Jalapa leaf, which is smooth to the touch and has rich a aroma with sweet notes of leather and cedar.
I tend to gravitate toward bolder cigars, so this seemed right up my alley from the start. After taking a few puffs, it was clear that this cigar stands out from Romeo’s other cigars. It definitely lives up to the hype with ample sweetness, spice, and earthiness. This is not a cigar you would want to enjoy on an empty stomach, because as promised, it packs the punch you would expect from a full bodied cigar.
I enjoyed the hell out of 505 and I can say with certainty that it appeals to anyone who prefers full bodied cigars with tons of flavor and quality construction. Hats off to Romeo y Julieta, this is a cigar that I can see myself lighting up again in the very near future.
I’ve been a Viaje fan for some time now. The brand’s Exclusivo is among my favorite cigars on store shelves right now. Despite my affinity for Viaje, Full Moon Collector’s Edition somehow went under my radar. Yes, I know this is a Halloween-themed cigar, so call me late to the party but, I just wanted to share my delight in finally giving this cigar a go. Let’s start with aesthetics - the cigar is wrapped in a gorgeous deep brown Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper that has an earthy and spicy aroma. The pigtail cap is a nice detail that I’m a total sucker for, so this experience is already off to an amazing start. Upon first light, Full Moon has a ton of flavor. Thick mouthfuls of pillowy smoke exude intense flavors of spice, earth, and cocoa. I was expecting an extraordinary cigar and somehow my expectations were blown out of the water throughout the burn. Full Moon is fantastic from top to tail, with a beautiful creaminess reserved for the very best cigars. Is it a surprise that I enjoyed this cigar as much as I did? Not really. The only surprise here is that spring has sprung and it somehow took me this long to sample Full Moon Collector’s Edition.
Why did I find myself surprised, after the first dozen or so puffs, at how much I was enjoying La Gran Llave Maduro when right there in the name, it’s clearly stated “BY AJ FERNANDEZ?" Knowing full well what Fernandez is capable of with tobacco and time, I should have expected this all along. La Gran Llave Maduro is fantastic, with a concerted creaminess throughout the whole experience that’s rare of any blend, for any price. It’s in this velvety mouth feel of lush smoke that really separates and lifts the LGL above the maduro majority. I found the Corona Extra size to be the perfect conduit for maximum flavor, with the chocolaty character of the San Andrés wrapper really shining through from start to finish. Could I have appreciated a bit more spice or complexity? Sure, but I also could use 5k in my bank account and a new Mazda. In my experiences with La Gran Llave Maduro, flavor consistency was present and that flavor was great. If complexity were a criticism, it’d be nattering nitpickery, good for only the raising of serious doubts to be had concerning the source critic. I am not that critic, I’m just a strangely surprised fan of La Gran Llave Maduro.
Alan Rubin is no stranger to using Honduran tobaccos in his blends to award winning results. His Coyol is no exception to this strategy, as the Honduran and Nicaraguan tobaccos used in this recipe combine to create one of my new favorites. Grabbed one out of the humidor for two reasons: #1 – the brand… I have loved the Tempus and Prensado for years, and have really enjoyed the few Mundials I’ve recently sampled. #2 – the size. A petite lancero is rather unique in today’s cigar scene, and seemed like a good choice for my afternoon session. Smoked slow and deliberate, the Coyol exuded big flavor and character from the get go. There’s a pleasant sweetness throughout, but not saccharine-y or overbearing. I usually get a savory, almost meaty nuance from other Alec Bradley blends, not so much with this lancero. I wasn’t pairing this with tea, but I kept coming back to that type of flavor sensation – slightly tannic, slightly astringent, with an herbal heavy finish. Very fresh and clean tasting; this blend is bright without many of the “dirty” earth flavors that can muddle a complex profile like this. Nubbing both samples of the Coyol I acquired for this review, I can say they were consistent, medium-bodied, unique, and enjoyable. Acquire a few for yourself, no regrets.
If you like the idea of an “enhanced” cigar blend, Opulence 3 is the finest choice. Sporting a toothy maduro wrapper from San Andrés, ‘O-3’ pumps out clouds of rich and creamy smoke, with a sweet finish, and a room note that is out of this world.
The original Dominican Romeo, the 1875 Bully performs like a true tobacco “cafe con leche” as nuances of coffee bean and sweet cream give way perfectly to its subtle sugarcane finish, creating a modern day classic. This best-seller is also a regular in my personal humidor. Mellow enough for the masses yet possessed with a surprising WOW factor.
Black Ops has won fans over with their clever packaging, rugged theme and, more importantly, their outstanding premiums all at an attractive price point. When Black Ops Berserker was in the works, I couldn’t help but scout around the office, trying to find first-hand information—and by first-hand information I mean when the cigar was going to hit our shelves. When I had the opportunity to get first dibs and light up this premium blend, I knew Black Ops provided another sought-after boutique with Black Ops Berserker.
This Nicaraguan puro lives up to its name. More than a one-dimensional cigar, Black Ops Berserker makes its mark in terms of flavor. Maintaining the balancing act of its medium to full body, Berserker immediately released bold notes of toasty tobaccos and zesty spice. Hints of rich dark chocolate soon appeared, complementing the other flavors lingering on the palate. With immaculate construction and rich, bold flavors Black Ops Berserker will take aficionados by storm.
Decade is one of my all-time favorites, so I had to try Rocky’s newer Cameroon version. After enjoying dozens since its release, I can tell you this blend delivers and frankly is as good, if not better than the original. There’s a nice sweetness to the smoke throughout and some serious complexity with hints of caramel, coconut, and peanut. Another KO from Rocky!
Nica Libre or Free Nicaragua is a brand that not only celebrates the people’s emancipation but also the amazing tobaccos that are grown and imported into the Central American country. The latest installment of Nica Libre is called the Silver 25th Anniversary in honor of Violeta Chamorro’s victory in the 1990 Nicaraguan general election. While my teacher friends could tell you much more about the details, I’ll save my limited vocabulary to try and cover the cigar’s character and complexity.
Construction, Smoke & Burn
The wrapper is a dark, magohany brown with no tooth. Even colored, you can tell by looking at it the high priming of the leaf and the high quality. Using my soft flame it takes awhile to toast the foot. Next time I’ll use a torch. The cigar is thick at a 56 gauge and the tobacco are tightly packed. Despite this the draw is perfect and once I get the foot burning there’s clouds of smoke. Burn is razor sharp and damn, this cigars feels good in the hand.
Flavor & Body
This is my 3rd or 5th Silver now and I have to say without a doubt, the next tastes better than the last and the last one was awesome. At this rate it’ll be my favorite cigar in a few months! Seriously though I’m really impressed with how the flavor starts, holds steady until about half way through, and then develops a bit on the final 3rd. Savory is the term that keeps coming to mind. Toast and light spices give way to a bevy of nuances that include chocolate and vanilla and even apricot. Wild, really impressive complexity. Body is medium-full, retrohale makes my eyes sweat and get out the clippers - it puts (more) hair on my chest.
What’s not to like? It averages about $5 per, so the price is right. The flavor approaches the quality and complexity Ashton VSG and Cohiba Nicaragua. Impression? I’m impressed.
OVERALL SCORE: 93/100
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