Deep in flavor. Deep in your mind.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

RoMa Craft Tobac Neanderthal - Cigar Review

Prologue:
5:36pm

The Cigar:
RoMa Craft Tobac
Neanderthal
San Andrés maduro wrapper
Connecticut Broadleaf binder
Nicaraguan/Dominican Olor/Pennsylvanian Double Ligero filler
5 x 52/56 Figuardo

Just the facts, ma'am.
Pre-light:
Toothy. A slight dink in the full city roast coffee colored wrapper. The shape is bowling pinesque. More so and more apt -- the funnel end of a beer bong. A good couple of surly veins and visible seams. It looks like a RoMa.

Smells like a RoMa, too. In that it don't smell a whole lot. Waxy chocolate, espresso, and mud. The foot smells of black pepper.

The packing is firm- and nicely even. The cap is squared and willing to come off. I more lick it off than bite. A cold pull is of cinnamon left in its McComick's tin too long. I'm also picking up some hardwood notes.

Light:
Toasting the foot lets loose the smell of coffee beans roasting. Very sharp first hot draw I almost want to say lemon. I will not. Finish is burnt coffee and black pepper. Second pull is retro-haled and pure black pepper wallop.

Full across-the-board profile. Even-burning, at least this early on. Plenty of foot smoke that is earthy and much more than a lil bit peppery.
Act I:
There is a very clean mouthfeel that keeps wanting me to say lemon. It begins on the draw and fades well before the finish. I'll keep noticing. Other than that, we have the aforementioned waxy chocolate, espresso, and mud -- I should say damp soil. There is a lot of leather with undertones of oak on the draw which yield to that that burnt coffee being joined by the espresso which runs from wire-to-wire, and a LOT of black pepper sprinkled with red pepper. Especially on the retro-hale.

I don't know if it's the nicotine buzz off the Pennsylvanian Double Ligero filler or not, but I taste cigarette. Luxury cigarette. The clean taste is not lemon, it has warmed and matured into an anise. With that, a baker's spice blend drops in and a dark rye breadiness with caraway seeds.

My hair is tingling, gentlepersons. I like it, gentlepersons. I wanted to slam this offering as a novelty smoke -- instead , I am tempted to call it a game changer. I believe Skip Martin has that Genius-Insanity Gene.

Burn is okay. Ash is grey to charcoal and very, very densely stacked. Later, at an inch+ it grows a flaky exterior and I roll it off. Its dense and heavy. The cigar burns cool and slow as a big man lumbering about. The draw tightens a bit but is still medium. Foot smoke lessens to a smolder.

The cigar is speaking softly and too is a big stick. Softly as a barely held refrain, one you wish not to tread upon. Only experienced smokers need apply.

Act II:
When I was a kid, I picked my scabs. Now I retro-hale this cigar. Same sensation of ouch-laden satisfaction via mainly black and then red pepper.

Flavor notes are the same as ever. Profile is something I will refer to as FULL. Still, tho, there are not subtleties -- but nuances of a sort. Cue a deaf person whispering. There is a touch of savory note from I believe the wet rich dirt. It is of a mineral not meaty umami quality. The marrow of a bone.

I brew some Chai Spiced Tea and lower my hat over my eyes. Hold my calls -- this is quite a solitary offering. My eyebrows are tingling, gentlepersons. I like it, gentlepersons.

Flavors now subdue to a near mottle, but a seemingly purposeful one. Tobacconists should not only not publicly display this -- but too keep it under lock and key. Safety glass comes to mind.

Smoke now increases to Act I levels and scratches my palate/throat a tad -- nothing egregious. Espresso is not as syrupy as it once was. This allows more oak and bread to come through. Not certain if that qualifies as a transition or not, but it's pleasant.

My heart is beating at a hummingbird's rate. Someone should tell that deaf guy that everyone in the room can hear him. There is an emerging sweetness to the finish, possibly some heavy cream, but just a half-dollop. I cough. Must be allergies.

Construction holds near perfectly and the burn is spot on even, sans razor. Ash is medium to dark grey and a noticeable bit more powdery. When I can see my heartbeat through my Fruit of the Loom tshirt, gentlepersons. I like it, gentlepersons, I place the Neanderthal in my tray. It's always ready to be picked up again -- never needs a re-light.

Act III:
Mrs. K joins me on the porch. "It's so smokey! I would barf!" says she.
I calmly tell her... I actually forget what I said... I might not have said anything.
She heads back in.

Red pepper flares now and lasts to the finish and then onto the next draw. Not exactly kind to the ol' throat. I cough again. Maybe I should take a Benedryl.

To my surprise, it seems to wish to end in a bit of a whimper, and the (luxury) cigarette returns. Too, the nub resists being smoked to an extent, as the mud muddies. However, this passes and

bang.
Notes:
Failed game-changers become novelties. This is not, I believe, a failure. It is artisan moonshine.

Most notable is both Maduro and Ligero are done their rightful and proper justice herein.

Pairings:
I daresay it don't need it. That stated, whatever you like, but make it strong. Strong like bull.

Opera fit well. Big Italian guys screaming, fits nicely. G Rossini, "The Barber of Seville" was a blast. Pavarotti really knocks Figaro out of the park. But whatta I know?

Final Grade: A
If you like FULL, you owe it to yerself to stock up on these.

Epilogue:
7:19
This offering prompted me to send Skip Martin a piece of fanmail.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Acme Cigar Co. Premier Ecuador - Cigar Review

Prologue:
9:24am

Can't talk. Trying to stay on schedu

The Cigar:
Acme Cigar Company
Premier Ecuador
Ecuador-grown Cuban seed Habano wrapper
San Andres and Criollo (double) binder
Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic fillers
5 x 50 Robusto
Pre-light:
For all its “That’s-a spicy meat-a-ball!” ingredients -- its nose is surprisingly mute. Although that is not to say unpleasant. While there is barely a note at the sniff of the wrapper, a try at the foot shows some promise of rich, surprisingly creamy tobacco, and a red pepper/sweet spice warmth.

To the squeeze, it shows some give, and not always a perfectly even give at that. Long veins, tight seams and an even rich brown complexion with a hand of not rough, but sans oils. The cap is affixed nicely. Upon closer inspection, there is a slight wrapper flaw or two -- but nothing that has me concerned. I ain’t never been ‘fraid, gentlepersons.

A bite off of the cap and a cold pull adds a cumin quality to the nose notes. An almost savoriness.

Light:
The process goes as expected without hiccups and the first hot pull is a very wispy bodied zing of pepper. This finishes into a very cocoa finish which is equally as airy. Very clean mouthfeel. Very long finish.

A retro-hale gives me more cocoa and a faint hint at sweet spices. A cedar comes in at the draw’s end and lasts sweetly into the finish. There too is a bread quality to the finish, though untoasted and Wonder bread-ish -- not oven-fresh artisan fare.

Another pull adds a good dose of cumin to my palate on the draw, but doesn’t linger to the finish. The finish does, however, see a pinch of salt added.

All told, a very good start. Though there is a lingering wispiness of body -- an almost watered down feeling. Tonic and Gin, instead of Gin and Tonic.

Fizzy. There exists almost a fizziness. I take it as an airy tininess or metallic not quite mineral taste that also is exhibited on the foot smoke. Very Cubanesque, I must say. Whether you enjoy that or not, is solely up to you.
Act I:
Thus far the burn has been quite even and a bit flakey. The draw is moderate but not completely fulfilling. Not “meaty.” As if I ordered a burger and was given a veggie patty. Or a McSomething.

Very crisp, very clean well into Act I now. Not a great evolution of flavors, but all remain present. The finish is the high-spot here -- while remaining clean on the palate, it is long lasting and transitions through the gambit of aforementioned notes. It is the draw which I find somewhat lacking, but a more often than usual retro-haling aids with that. It’s on that retro-hale where the sweet spices and red peppers get roasted and warmed. Following that, the draw is a continuation of that and an introduction of a more delineated cumin which becomes a cinnamon spiced cocoa with notes of cedar which paves the way to that very nice finish of a now toasted bread backing.

A fresh tingle shows up on the tip of my tongue and a saltines is deposited through it, then to my lips. Very much the of the influence of the Criollo binder. Then I think of the obvious chocolate and inherent spices of the San Andres aspect of the double binder, the Nicaraguan filler...

What is missing for me, however, is the Habano. I get no intense leather or coffee notes. That would be exactly what the doctor ordered, to make this stick really hum. Too, it is not yet 10am and I am buzz-less from a Habano, which is as surprising as Donald Trump not wearing a hat on a windy day.

Act I closes the same way it opened, and while quite pleasant, a bit flat thus far. I am hoping we see a transition at the half.

Act II:
A nutty roasted flavor shows up and enhances the bread note to whole grain near-artisan levels. There are notes of sweetening cocoa -- now dark chocolate, but too there is a hot chocolate note. Sweet spices are no longer delineated, but nice, and mingle fantastically with a sweet cedar. Cumin savoriness that is quite a dose of umami resides as always on the retro-hale.

As to the finish, there is the draw’s saltiness held over to a lengthy affair of a mingling of the aforementioned notes. Pretty dang complex, but not uniformly so -- there’s always a different order of comings and goings.

The burn is near razor sharp and the ash holds barely to an inch. It shows itself to lack density and to very powdery throughout. As the final act draws nigh, a crack shows in the wrapper, but influences nothing beyond cosmetic appeal.

Act III:
It would seem then, that there is not a transition to be had -- but I’d not at all call this a one dimensional affair. It is quite a nice -- if not wholly fulfilling offering. From its blending profile, I expected a dark and somber thing. A heaviness. What I received were all those notes, played to an upbeat tempo. Quite interesting really.

Always crisp, always clean, and always something to catch and hold yer attentions.

We finish out in Tonic and Gin fashion, but the Gin is top-shelf, gentlepersons. All notes are unchanged and I’m ¾ okay with that.
Notes:
I’d have loved to see the Habano hold its own, or even the DR kick in (perhaps that would have been redundant insofar as flavors, with the SA and Criollo carrying much the same tools but better), all told: Good. Quite good, even. This cigar is worth a smoke, but perhaps not worth the rave of its product line brethren. (See reviews of those in the index to yer left.)

I suppose what I wanted from this offering was a heavier body. That said, I was forced by my schedule to smoke it at the perfect time of day: early.

Pairings
Tea is a surprising good fit. Simply because I'm always surprised when I recommend it. A Black Tea, perhaps with some spice, sweetened -- hold the cream.

Final Grade: C
(It simply needed to show me more. What it did show was pleasant enough.)

Epilogue:
10:36am

...

[use of ellipsis denotes me being gone, man. Thanks for reading, thanks to the gents at Acme.]

meep-meep

Monday, September 28, 2015

RoMa Craft Tobac Aquitaine - Cigar Review

Prologue:
6:47pm

Today we have another fine offering from RoMa Craft Tobac. Again, I must convey to you my admiration for their products and their professionalism.

The Cigar:
RoMa Craft Tobac
CroMagnon Aquitaine
Ecuador Habano Ligero wrapper
Cameroon binder/Nicaraguan filler
Knuckle Dragger 4 x 52 Petite Robusto
Pre-light:
Eyeing up this offering, I see a milk chocolate brown wrapper with tight seams. Cosmetically and structurally pleasing veins. Some toothiness which is shy of an aggressive amount. Rough but not gnarled feel. A firm and even packing. Nicely constructed cap. A few bits of stray tobacco from the foot.

To the nose there is perhaps the faintest of cut grass/wet hay and even fainter chocolate caramel notes. Very, very mute. Sniffing the foot, I get almost a nougat sensation. Perhaps the whipped chocolate stuff in the middle of a Three Musketeers bar -- the artisan baked confectioner pastry chef chocolatier version. Some sweet red spices are backing that up, but the more I sniff, the closer they do come to the foreground.

On the cold draw, there is a healthy enough nutmeg that I can bring it up to my sinuses, where a red pepper flake is added. The finish picks up a more candy vibe from the nose of the foot and puts me in mind of Red Hots. This is a more jovial sensation that was the Red Hots of this offering's cousin.

The same candy tastes different at the circus, than it does on a death march. I'd imagine. I've only ever been to the circus. We are speaking Cirque du Soliel, not Ringling, to be exact.

Another cold draw gives the smell/taste of orange blossom honey.

Light:
Nice easy light that smelled of peanuts off the toasting. Medium flavor/body. First hot draw is of peanuts and leather. What I like to call the baseball flavor (Leather mitt). There is a touch of caramel at the second hot draw, a retro-hale, so we have Crackerjacks, gentlepersons. Too, we  have a somewhat peppery affair which feels like a roasted white variety -- mainly, again, on the retro. A third hot pull is the same, with the introductory of a deep French roast coffee with cream and said cream's inherent sweetness. This balances well with the roasted white pepper. The sweetness leaves last, and leaves long -- almost to the next pull. Medium+ body. I'd say full- flavor, and medium strength.
Act I:
A mild cinnamon comes in on the draw here. All else early in the opening remains static.

The draw resistance is perfect. The burn has one small flaw, where a vein catches spark and trail blazes ahead. I'm assuming that will run its course and fall back. The ash is light grey mainly, with touches of charcoal. The packing has softened noticeably.

Now the red pepper flakes rear up on the retro-hale, but it's roasted warm and pleasantly. The caramel subdues or is simply overshadowed by this, but the sweetness of the cream holds its own and leads to a buttery mouthfeel. I believe the nougat/whipped chocolate lives herein.

The room note, if you will, is very warm and not at all confrontational, though it is voluminous. Foot smoke smells of good diner coffee with cream and sugar, some peanut-y notes.

The creamery butter expands to my lips with a touch of salt and is, well, quite lovely.

As we set to embark upon Act II, a hint of tinny mineral is seen on both the draw and the finish, but isn't unpleasant. However, the burn has yet to even on its own accord, and a flap of wrapper comes partially loose -- affecting cosmetics only.

Act II:
As the stick heats, the high notes of red pepper come down some. This allows all other on-board notes, and a caramel return, to shine. The ash holds fast and sure. Medium profile across-the-board. A lot of still pleasant foot smoke. The burn evens out some all on its lonesome.

Medium+ strength at the halfway mark. Too, a slight bittering of the coffee -- moving from diner to cafe. A full city roast. I roll the ash off at full length in a buttery clump. Honey returns now in a raw form -- with it comes a nice leathery undertone.

Act III:
Here in the final act, there is a mute dampening of sorts to all notes other than the red pepper flakes which stay dry and prevent a bogging down, Cumin rises on the finish, as does a sweet tobacco and a Nicaraguan chocolate, Very much in mind is a Mexican hot cocoa (Red spices and dry chocolate). Surrounded in smoke, I watch the Super Blood Moon. It is a lovely pairing. As is Vivaldi's Autumn. As is a spiced black tea.

A wonderful smoke -- I find myself mourning its approaching final curtain. It falls with a sweetness lingering on my lips and a very nice buzz in my skull, pleasant smoke all around me. All. Around. Me.
Notes:
One of the better smokes I've had as of late. An excellent, excellent mouthfeel and perfect moisture level. Very Autumn -- sans the white chicks in Uggs ordering pumpkin-spiced... everything.

There are, as I say, communal and solitary smokes -- this is an offering which begs good, deep conversation.

All told, a must smoke, gentlepersons. One which ends full-on full-flavored, still with fine nuances owing I believe to a beautiful Ligero usage, that even a lightweight such as myself can find joy in.

Now please help me back into my chair. I believe I was sitting when I began. Really, though, it was very kind with its strength. No, I do not know where my chair is.

Pairings:
An astrological event. Say, a #SuperBloodMoon?

Spiced tea. Vivaldi. A dark roasted coffee, sweetened and with cream froth, through the first two acts. A Chai latte would be amazing throughout. As would a Cream Sherry or Tawny Port wine. A nice piece of chocolare--

I could go on, but I think I've finished tomorrow's shopping list.

Final Grade: A.
(+ that for a better burn/a true[r] transition.)
I'd love a larger vitola.
Epilogue:
7:38pm

Seriously, gentlepersons -- grab yerselves on a' these. Thank me after. Or thank RoMA now.

Mailbag Monday for 09.28.15

It's Monday, this must be Mailbag. 

Welcome back, fellow enthusiasts, to my weekly Q&A posting -- Let's do this, gentlepersons.
"How should I break in my new Briar pipe?"

There’s more than one way to skin a cat -- but it’s important to realize that in the vast, vast majority of ways -- said cat ends skinned. With that in mind, we’ll continue onward with the understanding that many methods are sound. I am simply relating my own. Let’s too understand that there are very few ways, perhaps none of which are occurrences that happen within reason, wherein a briar will/can be ruined at its onset. A pipe is meant to be smoked from.

We’ll start there. Pack a bowl and smoke it, gentlepersons. Full or half or any amount will do. Whichever puts a smile on yer face. I’ve heard of treating the bowl with honey, or your own saliva, or booze. I can’t say as I’ve done any of these. Nor can I say that any of these will ruin and/or drastically improve a new pipe.

I would recommend that a polished bowl be wiped with a swab of liquor.

When we discuss the breaking in of a briar, what we are really addressing is the building up of cake in the bowl. The only way to do that, is to smoke. I will say with a newer un-caked pipe, you’ll probably want to allow it some cooling off time. Also, and hopefully of course, clean it after each smoke -- disassembling only when cold.

Once your cake is the thickness of a nickel, ream it down to the thickness of a dime. Enjoy!
"What do Ligero, Seco, and Volado mean?"

Ligero, Seco, and Volado are leaf classifications that every tobacco plant grown with cigar purposes in mind, regardless of its variety, will yield to harvest. These leaves are, as you might imagine, each from a different part of the plant. Every cigar is some combination of these leaves.

Ligero: Are taken from the top third of the tobacco plant. They are employed to give the cigar its strength and flavor.

Seco: These leaves, taken from the middle third of the plant, are quite mild in flavors -- but are responsible for the cigar’s aroma.

Volado: The bottom third of the plant. These leaves are not used for flavor or aroma, but for their superior burning characteristics which include allowing the cigar to be lit in the first place, and to burn smoothly.

When a blender is at work, they will take some recipe combination of these leaf types, from various strains of tobacco plants, to hopefully achieve their desired outcome.
"Do you follow any sort of pipe dedication?"

I prefer to smoke a corn cob, myself. I mean if it’s good enough for Popeye…

Ghosting, the picking up of previous flavors smoked in current bowls -- which pipe dedication is meant to prevent -- is largely a Briar ‘necessity.’ To avoid a dissertation on this lengthy topic, I’ll stay on course and answer the question at hand. As usual, via a dry glossary of terms offering -- this time re: varying types of Pipe Dedication.

Strict Dedication:
An ultra conservative approach, oft riddled with OCD tendencies and/or deep pockets. This approach is that of only smoking one particular blend in each particular pipe. Nuances are fully explored, yes -- but I can’t imagine that wouldn’t get tiresome. If you were to somewhat organically match your favorite blend to your favorite pipe, or a pipe particularly well-suited to it, I could see that. I suppose.

Genre Dedication:
This school of thought typically gets divided up thusly, with each category having its own pipe(s):

English/Balkan blends
Virginia and Virginia/Perique blends
Aromatic blends

Seems reasonable enough. So reasonable, in fact, that I myself tend toward this category. Sorta. If I only did the Briar thing. Which I don’t. What I do do (lol poop) is a corncob for aromatics and a corncob for non. When I wish to taste fully and solely a blend, I pick up a new corncob -- smoke a bowl of the stuff. Smoke another. Then carefully and thoughtfully contemplate my navel/review.

Lest I forget, lack of philosophy is too a philosophy. The final category of pipe dedication, then is --

No Dedication:
These filthy animals just load whichever bowl with whatever and smoke it! Egads! Truthfully, this is a healthy introductory point. One which will insure your daily allowance of fun. Once you get hooked on that fun -- you can feel free to dedicate as your then more knowledgable self sees fit. Or not. I know many a seasoned smoker who never dabbles in any sort of pipe dedication. They seem happy. Very, actually…

almost jovial.
"How do I set up my humidor?"

You didn’t specify your humidifier type, but I’m sure it’s either green foam, or crystals. Furthermore -- I don’t rightly reckon that matters for the sake of our purposes.

*You’ll first want to submerge your humidifier in DISTILLED water. Spring or tap water will turn your humidor into a petri dish. Green foam takes quite some time -- crystals about 20-30 minutes.

*Next, mount the hydrometer in a corner of the humidor away from the humidifier.

*Make certain there is no excess (dripping) water, place humidifier.

Now we season:
*Take a NEW kitchen sponge and soak it in the DISTILLED water. Squeeze sponge to very damp.

*Place sponge in a left-opened sammich bag and rest it in the bottom of humi for 3-5 days. I like to humidify everything (trays/dividers).

*In about a couple a days, check yer hydrometer. It should read about 85% at that point. Good? Good. If not -- check in with me.

*In another couple a days, remove sponge and voila! The humidity will settle quickly to a nice 68-70% in the time it takes for you to move your stogies in, plus there not being the added moisture of sponge in open sammich baggie.

NOTE: some would instruct to wipe down with water, the insides of the humidor during seasoning. This is unnecessary and threatens to expand the wood in too great of a manner.
"What’s the best way to store pipe tobacco?"

In thoroughly hand-washed mason jars which are then either run through a dishwasher or boiled. If the tobacco is in its original and sealed tin, perfect. ‘Cellar’ the pipe tobacco as one would a wine; or in as similar a condition as you can find.

DO NOT store with cigars. You will infuse said stogies, as well will the stogies dry out the pipe tobacco. Some folks add water to the tobacco. Please don’t do this, as it invites mold.

NOTE: be mindful that the lids of mason jars are prone to rust. Air dry them beyond thoroughly prior to sealing, and there is no need to clean them beyond hand-washing.Too, there is no need to jar properly (heat), simply screw the lid on as tight as Jack Benny’s wallet.

& there we have it, don't we, gentlepersons. As always thank you kindly for both reading and writing in. To write in, tweet me (or DM) @iamkap

Have a great week, all. Best wishes to each of ya.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

RoMa Craft Tobac Cromagnon - Cigar Review

Prologue:
6:58pm
Just a nod to the folks at RoMa for their enthusiasm, commitment, and professionalism. Too, their creativity.
The Cigar:
RoMa Craft Tobac
Cromagnon
US Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper
Cameroon binder
Nicaraguan filler
The Cranium 6 x 54 Grand Toro
Pre-light:
Tooth and oil, baby. Lots of both on a nice thick wrapper. Really a delicious looking medium to dark chocolate steak dinner looking sheen. Pack is stiff and dense and solid, like I could club a fella who stepped outta line with it. Visible seams, plenty of veins but I do believe that's the damned point.

The wrapper has a milder nose than its appearance lets on. Some hay and slight leather. A hint of manure. The foot is vastly sweet spices with cinnamon high notes. Some creamy chocolate resides there, as well.

The band is understated and overstated both at the same time, as well as smarter than me. I take it off in a two step process involving my Old Timer. Since I already have it handy, I punch a hole in the cap with it. Very cinnamon cold draw that leaves a sweet spice finish on my palate. "Holy box of Red Hots," Batman! At the end of that cold finish, I pick up some chocolate notes that I realize were there all along.

Light:
Sparking a dense, oily offering with wooden matches, I feel, qualifies me for sainthood on account of the quiet patience it takes. The first hot draw is rigid, and I might have to carve open the cap a tad more. Very on the bone meaty. I think of a slab of ribs or plate of chicken wings. There is black pepper and there are sweet spices, so BBQ/hot sauce, natch. On the second draw a retro-hale burns like a mother.

Too, it is peppery both black and red -- but the notes are equally of a red spice variety. Capsicum and chilies. A third hot pull (after carving out more cap), is still rigid and almost wispy. Some cumin and a lot of red earthiness and emerging leather notes. Scorched hay and manure and salted earth join in on the finish. Gentlepersons, I sense post-apocalyptic carnage. Meat roasting to charred on a spit and women are screaming in the background.

Hold on, that's my wife. I left the window on the porch open, and smoke is blowing inside.
Act I:
Every character in a Cormac McCarthy novel should chomp one a' these.

The burn is wonky, but I'll see if it strays even. Very dense light grey to grey ash. I'm beginning to detect a plum type red purple fruit. I picture it dripping down the invaders chin as he helps himself to the villager's harvest. It's almost delicate now, an off-setting, in the far background -- a floral far undertone. I was wondering how the Cameroon would present itself. It does so as the previously mentioned tirade settles to a murmur. This allows for a surprisingly pleasant finish, all told. A lengthy one which lasts to the next pull.

The foot smoke is quite harsh. I'm convinced my neighbor thinks I torched my house. Full flavor. medium+ body and strength. I jam a toothpick down center and the draw eases, but so help me G-d, the toothpick breaks. I even the burn with a touch up. An espresso with nutty crema surfaces. Ash grows darker, remains intact and stiffly dense. I feel as though I could easily grow it all the way down.

At the end of the opening act, the burn again goes astray. I hear Yakov Smirnoff mockingly state "In Soviet Russia, cigar smoke you." Then he gasps and falls to the ground -- head cleaved by a brutally over-sized axe.

Act II:
A citrus mouthfeel is introduced. I say "citrus" because it is not done justice by 'acidic.' It's quite nice. It adds well to the kindly finish. All other notes remain on-board. I roll off an inch plus of heavy ash that David could have used in his sling.

Very savory, but not in an umami sense. Very hot-burning. Aggressive. Impact. I lower my hat brim over my eyes, butt they dart around -- searching out predators. The draw loosens to a medium. The pack loosens as well. The black peppers amp up on the draw to invade the finish and the Cameroon surrenders.

Some grassy notes rise up green and sweet spices even out with the peppers. The foot smoke has grown more robust, still -- yet kinder. I do believe the villagers have faked surrender and are fighting back. Does a white horse have different smell/tastes than a black horse? I do believe so.

Sweet and hot spices have blended to secure the draw. Green and hints of floral notes have taken back the finish. All this happens on a nutty chocolate leather undertone. If this ain't full profiled across-the-board, it's darn close. Salty minerals interject, weaving in and out of the battlefield, leaving a nice tangy note in their mineral wake. A glass of Zinfandel is raised -- but by whom? Everything darkens a bit. I can smell the sun setting. It dips behind trees in the park across the street.

Construction further loosens, but holds. The cigar heats up further, but its smoke remains cool. The burn evens but is not yet even. Zinfandel is joined by Merlot. Leather earthiness hides. As does the espresso and its crema. Red clay comes in, especially on the finish.

From the halfway point to the end of the second act, this is where we are. We also have an even burn.

Act III:
I cannot say this is a pleasant affair -- nor can I say it is not an enjoyable one. For those who like to "Stay smokey," look no further than this offering.

"STEP ON MY CUBES!" - Stewie Griffin

A very dry cocoa powder replaces other chocolate notes and the fires die back to a hot smolder. Delineations end here to a certain extent -- shy by far of mottling. Espresso is a sweet coffee now, but not sweetened. Peppers mute but carry over to the finish which is now a sharp if not sour fruitiness that lives at the tip of my tongue. A nice chew settles in. As does a certain near mintiness.

The wrap unwraps a tad, but that can easily be attributed to my own clumsiness and is cosmetic only -- and sets back fine. In spite of another preemptive retouch attempt, the burn goes crooked again.

The darkness gives way to a weary lightening of the cigar's profile at the end, but in war -- no one wins. Although I am quite happy.

I cannot wait for History Channel to colorize this shit, gentlepersons. I shall be, and have been, riveted.
Notes:
"STEP ON MY CUBES!" - Stewie Griffin. Wait, did I say that already?

My dad had Parkinson's Disease. Really couldn't use his hands much. We'd play chess and I'd move his pieces as per his instruction. He'd almost always win. Nurturing the burn of this Cromagnon put me in mind of that.

Pairings:
Wilhelm Richard Wagner. Chainmaille. A full gut.

Final Grade: A-
(Better burn and no wrapper 'issue' would = A+.)

I need a sleep. I expect dreams of near massacre and triumph. I like how that yellow flower in the middle of the battlefield still stands.

Epilogue:
8:32pm
Can't now. Rebuilding a village. 
Word is there's already another invasion scheduled...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Carter Hall - Pipe Tobacco Review

Prologue:
9:45pm
Ladies and gentlemen, big hand for this logue. I'm actually paying for it to be here tonight, so yes, it is a prologue. Thank ya.

More and more these days, my "everyday cigar" is becoming a pipe. What began as my cheap stogie musings has evolved into write-ups of boutique blended freebies offered up for review. Ah, life. 

As I sit on my porch now, contemplating this all and its spot in the omniverse, I can't help but wonder why I can't get rid of this funny taste in my mouth -- but we shall get to that...

The Pipe Tobacco:
Carter Hall
Blend: Virginia/Burley
Cut: Ribbon
Flavoring: Bourbon, Cocoa/Chocolate.
Profile: Light

The Pipe
Material: Briar Wood
Bore: 3/4"
Bowl Height: 1 1/2"
Overall Length: 5"
Pre-light:
The blend appears as advertised, air cured burley and bright enough virginia conspiring to create a mellow if not meh sight. Very nutty to the nose with a hint toward a snootful of hooch. Some red fruits, dried -- fig, maybe.

Light:
Ready to smoke right out of the pouch, the light is a breeze -- even in the breeze of my porch -- using wooden matchsticks. Uphill. Both ways. Kids these days.

The initial draw or two offers a robust smoke output that dies back shortly after to a light medium. If pampered on a bit, it has the ability to yield more smoke -- or you can just let it chug along peaceably as you do the same.

Notes:
I'd say that Carter Hall well avoids the cigarette tendencies of its Burley ingredients, however it seems to do so with a quite saccharin topping which lingers heavily on the palate. That's not entirely true. It lingers lightly on the palate for a heavy amount of time. With this is an undernote of chocolate. On the draw is where the cocoa resides with a backing of something like bourbon but made notably synthetic-seeming by the quick-following saccharine sweetness. 

The Virginia can be tasted in only a very slight way at the very, very beginning of the pull as a tangy berry hits my tongue and gets outta Dodge in a hurry.

I very well might be sensitive here, but when I say "long finish," read: "Hour." It's not wholly unpleasant, but anything can outlive its welcome. I suppose some of this can too be chalked up to the Burley's heavy mouthfeel...although as sorta stated, I get medium at very most in this particular offering.

Still, it is a very cool smoke with very easy mechanics, that's about as likely to bite as is an old toothless Golden Retriever. For my cigar smoking readers, I'd equate this with an offering you'd opt for as a pairing to mowing the yard, tending the garden, etc. Too and again, if tended to fastidiously, you might get a bit more from it while, say, sitting on the porch, avoiding such work.

Do NOT, however, expect one iota of complexity. The good news is it's easy enough to find comfort there -- or at least lack of distraction. Even taken up into the sinuses and out the nose on a retro-hale, nothing more is exhibited. Perhaps, actually, a note of berry on occasion.

Therein, I believe, lies this blend's generational success. It offends no one. I'd daresay even a non-smoker wouldn't cringe at its room note; which consists of a warm enough less synthetic sweetness laced with chocolate notes offset by bourbon. Lingering behind that is a nice nuttiness that I'd like to have on either the draw or finish, in far greater quantities, There, it kind of just wafts in and out through the bowl.

Long touted as an all day smoker, I'd say that it, in my opinion, can stand up to only the very lightest of nosh suppers. Have it up until then with tea or coffee of any styling, but with a heartier meal and an adult beverage? Nah, gentlepersons. Just nah.

If you appreciate this while the sun is up, you'll find you like Prince Albert better once the sun sets.

Heel:
Other than the slight berry ebbs and flows throughout, here is where the VA finds influence. This blend smokes smooth all the way to dottle and ash. Dottle and Ash -- now there's a good name for a Pipe Club, tavern, or race horse. 

There is simply no wavering from charring light to heel. That may bore some, and may excite some. Those it excites are mainly CPAs who drive brown four-door sedans.
Assorted Et cetera:
Carter Hall makes a fantastic base for blending. Too, it is a great blend on its own for breaking in new pipes or to correct one threatening to go funky/showing signs of ghosting. What we have here is comfort food, and there's always a place for that.

Come to think of it, this is a great blend with which to break in a new pipe-smoker, as well.

Final Grade: C+
(Hard to go wrong here, but quite easier to go at least a lil more right.
I refuse to grade up for simple availability, but that deserves notation.) 

Epilogue:
10:55pm
I sit my pipe to cool and walk Ruby Vondella through the park across the street. I come home and my porch -- actually out to my gate, down my driveway -- smells great.

I have an odd hankering for instant mashed potatoes...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Acme Cigar Co. Premier San Andres - Cigar Review

Prologue:
11:40am

Yesterday was Yom Kippur. I fasted. Just in case Hashem reads this blog.

Prior to this review, I ate Milk Toast. Just in case Food Network execs read this blog.

I feel my bases are now covered and can comfortably address

The Cigar:
Acme Cigar Co.
Premier San Andres
San Andres wrapper (Maduro)
San Andres & Esteli Habano binders
Nicaraguan blend filler
5 x 50 Robusto
Pre-light:
I really dig the Acme bands, not just for design, but for quality. Nice thickness, embossed. Not like some others I’ve mentioned which look and feel a lot like they were run off someone’s home ink jet.

The cigar itself is a very dark matte finish chocolate hue. Some quite noticeable seams, one in particular has given me some concern re: burn. Some slight toothiness, not sandpaper-y, but far from oily.The packing is firm and the leaves at the foot, quite dense.

Not a whole lot of nose on the wrapper, of which I am surprised to relay. The foot smells like the puro Nicaraguan filler it is, deep dark chocolate tobacco with a hint of warm spices.

A cold pull shows espresso notes in addition to the nose. Some nuttiness, too. The draw is a bit to the tight side of medium.

Light:
The light itself is a simple and quite eager affair. The first hot pull is of peppery spices and quickly roasted nuttiness. A retro-hale next shows some more delineated black pepper and a near full-bodied tobacco. Now, on the third hot draw, comes the espresso and its crema into the draw mix, along with a note of Baker’s chocolate.
Act I:
We start here with a very hearty whole grain bread being baked around that roasted wal-nutiness. That bread is the predominant backing now, which showcases rotating notes of cocoa and black pepper. The finish is very long, lasting til the next pull and is a nice hold-over of the toasted nutty bread mixed with baking chocolate. The pepper does not linger long, and actually seems to be subduing. In fact, it is and too, is allowing a raisin/dried plum to come in.

The pull is now dead-perfection medium and the burn, even enough. The ash is a grey/black flaky San Andres affair on its outside, but the typical dense Nicaraguan affair at its center.

Too subduing is the breadiness, or perhaps the nuts (now a party mix of varieties) and baking chocolate (now bordering on dark), have further distinguished themselves. The pepper exists mainly at a retro-hale and lingers the first few beats of the finish on my palate.

Another retro-hale, because the black peppers are quite pleasing, shows the addition of a cumin note. Act One ends with a further emergence of cumin to the draw, and a new-found savoriness that I find umami-liscios.

Act II:
Before we continue, this is a medium+ offering, as far as body and flavor. Perhaps medium as to strength -- but I expect that to come on shortly.

The savoriness continues and I can half be made to believe there is a nice brisket cooking in my oven. Just as I note the burn evening out, the ash flakes off at around an inch with no warning, and I forgot to place my darned shmata upon my darned lap. Very powdery ash. I cannot pick it up sans it taking further powder.

A meaty and savory smoke now. The smoke whirls heavily off the foot and has in it the hint of a red citrus. A black pepper returns on the retro-hale to join the cumin on the draw. Chocolate sweetens a beat to counter nicely. The nutty notes diminish.

It is now that I realize this Acme offering via a Texas cigar company, is mimicking Seder dinner at my Uncle Leon’s Brooklyn brownstone. You see, you arrived to Trail Mix platters, then were adjourned to the dining room for brisket. A nice brisket. Aunt Stella was a real balabusta! Toward the end, though, she resorted to instant potatoes and gravy. We all pretended to not notice as she coyly smiled.

It is now, too, that I realize the cigar’s strength has went to medium+, as I turn my head and get a lil comfortably woozy.

If this all holds true, I know what to expect in...

Act III:
We begin firstly and again with a nod to construction: same as it ever was. My lone ‘complaint’ is that the head is not softening to a decent chew as of yet.

I turn down my classical music, streaming from my laptop. I’m back at the kid’s table at my Uncle Leon’s house. I strain to hear the whispered political talk from the adults. Bunch of stinkin’ Socialist Jews. My Uncle Leon was a ham radio operator and put out many a Pinko thought in his day “Workers of the world unite,” indeed.

The women slowly gravitate to the kitchen and I smell coffee brewing…

And I taste coffee now. The burn slows and the other kids go to the upstairs den to watch TV. I slide over to the adult table. “Noach!” They note and I wait to be chased away, but I am not and the coffee comes. My dad pours me a glass of milk. But now on my porch...

The coffee is sweet with milk and sugar and the toasted bread has returned less dark but with more yeast and a definite honey note -- a honey cake. We have again transitioned to a desert affair.

I shall ride this out, kind reader, and greatly recommend you try this cigar for yourselves.

Notes:
Hard to beat a three course meal in a single cigar. Not to mention the trip down memory lane. What a deal!
Pairings:
A Seder, gentlepersons, calls for Mogen David. Although it was later revealed that Uncle Leon drank the MD and replaced it with Manischewitz for company.

Final Grade: B+.
(A+ for a more even and less flaky burn and ash. Too, gets ‘bitey’ at the nub.)

Epilogue:
12:51pm

I feel this was a very Jewish post. Far from apologizing, I’ll now run with that. Did you know that Manischewitz modeled their matzo packaging after cigar box designs -- in order to convey classiness?
Thanks for suffering through this post, Goyim!
*
Once again, my sincerest of thank yous to the Texans for their sampler. Got one more review a-pendin'.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Further on Each of the Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette XI

11. Holdeth not a cigar as thou wouldst a cigarette.
Lest I shall smacketh you, n00b.
By my own admittance (and too the fat Tabby (my Dachshund Ruby Vondella in a varied form) who first did spaketh it): this is the most petty of our Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette. So as is Tradition, as of meow, we shall to include a wrapping up of the previous ten (10). No extra charge.

Simply, one does not hold a cigar as one would a cigarette.
* Rest the cigar on your middle finger and lightly yet securely, rest your index finger around it.

* Also acceptable is to hold it with all four fingers on top and your thumb underneath.

* You might have some explaining to do, ya cheap and filthy animal, but holding a nub by a toothpick is also OK. Mainly because I do it.

You may NOT hold it in your mouth whilst speaking.
A Wrap UpWhile not so much a wrap up, as to emphasize the importance of these Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette, I will tell you why it is that I took time to forward to you all these utterings of a MADuro laced fat Tabby (my Dachshund Ruby Vondella in a varied form) covenant.

At the heart of my admiration of and for the Cigar Lifestyle is its gentlepersonliness.

I sit on my porch, schmata handkerchief on my lap, Manischewitz at my side in a dollar store wine glass, and I am lovely. I am lovely in my thrift store clothing. I am lovely as Opera or Classical Music streams from my crack-screen'd phone. I wish for us all to be lovely.
Thank you for reading, as always. Please, too, to read The Eleven (11) Commandments of Cigar Etiquette in their entirety HERE.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Acme Cigar Co. Route 66 - Review

Prologue:
11:26am

“You know” I says to Mrs. Kap, “You know, I started writing reviews such a short time ago. What started as me writing tongue-in-cheek about two dollar cigars I had to scrounge up change for -- has become me writing about expensive offerings which I am sent free of charge to review.” I pause.

“What should I make of that?” I ask.
“Smoke them and write about it.” She says.

The Cigar:
Acme Cigar Company
Route 66 Classic Hot Rod
Ecuador-grown Cuban seed Habano wrapper
Jalapa Criollo binder
Nicaraguan, San Andres, & Dominican fillers.
5x50 Robusto
Pre-light:
A light amount of toothiness and tasteful amount of veins on a medium brown wrapper with hints of somewhat lighter hues. The finish is matte, and the feel not rough per se, but not smooth. Very tight seams nicely and crafted cap. A peek at the footer shows a moderately dense packing. A squeeze here and there indicates an even assemblage of the dead-on medium variety.

A cold sniff of the wrapper yields a faint medium tobacco. A sniff at the foot elaborates with a joining in of fall spices -- cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, et al. A possible light cedar rest in the background.

A cold draw is of Red Hots candy and quite lively, it puts a smile on my mug. I used to steal Red Hots from a Brooklyn bodega ran by a dwarf.

I digress.

Light:
Toasting the foot lets loose a nice waft of those previously mentioned fall spices. A surprising bite of red pepper greets my smoke-hole upon lighting. There is a cedar trace on the draw that comes at the end of those spices, and lingers to a somewhat sweet finish. There is a clean if not utterly crisp mouthfeel.

A retro-hale is of warming cedar notes on the back of red pepper and cinnamon. on the third hot pull a note of milk chocolate is visible, especially on the early draw.
Act I:
Red pepper/milk chocolate balanced draw with notes of cedar mingling about, followed by a lessening fall spice on the draw’s end, which hits the finish where a further milk chocolate joins in. Nice, lengthy finish -- not quite lasting to the next pull -- yet.

The burn is even enough, and not requiring of touch-up, nor showing signs of straying. The ash is white marbled with light grey and an only very occasional charcoal. Not a particularly dense ash, some aeration spots exist.

A note on construction: a very cool smoke which remains at the same medium firmness and sports a near perfect pull -- just the correct amount of resistance.

I find the finish is shortening, instead of the lengthening I’d expected, but there is a lighter and very pleasant floral honey intertwined therein.

At Act One’s close, nutmeg and cinnamon (a more mature variety than the previous Red Hots homage. A deeper warmth.) have far overtaken the on-set’s red pepper. A note of citrus joins the floral honey in an orange blossom fashion. There is less milk in the milk chocolate now, but the cedar has amped up to flesh out the sweetness.

A retro-hale simply reinforces the above. The ash drops off quite powdery at shy of an inch. The finish has a slight addition of truck stop coffee at it’s end, which lengthens it almost to the next puff.

Act II:
We begin with an extension of Act One. Then, at the halfway point a heightened cedar and a return to red pepper, both flavors are warmed, roasted. The body is a bit heavier and the strength, too - although I’d still say medium to both -- we have definitely went from one end of mid-range to the other. The honey losses it floral notes, but too sweetens in deeper notes. The chocolate darkens yet again and overall, we see a very nice transition to a more fuller flavored (though still medium) smoking experience. fall spices are now mainly on the finish and I feel I am eating a dessert to my dessert -- and I am not complaining one iota. “Finish all your peanut butter pie, little Jimmy, or you won’t get any Rocky Road ice cream.” Warns Mom.

As the final third approaches, we transition again to a mainly Nicaraguan rich tobacco with all its inherent traits of dark chocolate and earthiness -- a thickening of ash lends credence to that claim. This leads through to the finish where a hint of dried red fruit resides and is then nicely counterbalanced with a roasted cumin sprinkling.

Act III:
I don’t foresee any further transitions or introductions, so I’ll readdress the construction. As expected, the fully heated offering has softened, but holds very well. A decent chew has set in and the burn is not razor sharp, but never was and too never needed my concern.

We get a spurt or two of bordering on bite at the end, but nothing egregious and it mainly serves to ultimately cleanse the palate. I realize I’ve not sipped a drink throughout, and that my mouth is at the perfect moisture level -- which speaks quite well of the blend.
Notes:
A stick which delivers on its every promise, must be admired. In an era where the cash grab of flavor of the month offering are sadly common, I feel that Route 66 and the Acme Cigar Company will be around for quite some time.

A near perfect smoke for anytime of day, but one which really shines while too does the sun.

Pairings:
Not essential, as noted -- but try a nice enough coffee with cream and sugar. Any pairing should match this cigar’s lack of airs and the putting on thereof. I have peanut butter pie stuck in my head.

I'd imagine tunnels painted onto sides of mountains and rocket-powered rollerskates would be a bit too on-the-nose.

Final Grade: B+
(A would be garnered by a more even and less flaky burn. A+ by no hints at bite.)

Epilogue:
12:38pm

And so I smoked and wrote.
Please visit Acme Cigars HERE.
A humble thank you for the smokes, sirs.
And to you, dear reader, for reading.

Mailbag Monday for 09.21.15

My, how popular Mailbag Monday has become in just a few small installments. Thank you all ever so fondly, gentlepersons -- and welcome back. Pleasantries met, we commence.
"New pipe smoker here, to filter or not to filter?

In my opinion, a filter should be employed only as a solution to an issue, and not at all if there ain’t an issue. In other words, there’s no need for a pipe filter to be part of your ‘factory setting.” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

As an explanation and for argument's sake, let’s look at the three kinds of pipe filters available today:

Absorpative Filters
These, as you hopefully already assumed, absorb. These filters reduce moisture, but too and generally equally, reduce flavor. A good way to reduce moisture and keep flavor -- AKA have yer cake and smoke it, too -- is to become a better smoker. Slow your pace, smooth your draw, and prior to that: load a better bowl. These actions will greatly reduce the amount of water in your smokestream.

In this case then, you may think of a pipe filter as training wheels that are placed on a bicycle after you learn to ride. Doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, huh? Just be a better cyclist. Side note: if you are a pipe smoking cyclist -- Hipster. Or in my case -- Heebster.

Pass-Through Filters
Using activated charcoal or silica crystals, these filters reduce both tars and nicotine -- something that might mean a heckuva lot more if you inhaled your smoke. Do not inhale your smoke. Since you aren’t going to inhale, this filter will mainly reduce flavors and moisture. In that order. (See ways to more properly cut down on moisture above.)

Condenser Filters
I recommend this type to anyone married to the filter approach. Probably because they aren’t exactly filters at all. You might better know them as “stingers,” and what they do is essentially be a colder than their environment piece of metal which attracts a greater amount of moisture to it, than does your smoke-hole. These ‘filters’ tend to detract from flavors the least (none), and also reduce the least amount of wet. Think of them as training wheels, but training wheels that are way up high off the ground. You’re growing up so fast!

Now, with strains of Harry Chapin’s "Cat’s in the Cradle" playing all around us -- I’ll leave you with the advice to do whatever makes you smile. That, and take yer dad to a ballgame, ya lousy ingrate.
"I’m a new smoker who loves full-bodied cigars. Can you recommend a few?"

What’s this, AMATEUR HOUR? I kid -- I am ever so glad that people are picking up our wonderful hobby of premium tobacco decadent staycationing.

That stated, before I send you off with a handful of full-bodied recommendations, let’s examine what is now our shared situation. You are a nascent cigar smoker who(m?) prefers full bodied cigars. Let’s first distinguish body from strength from flavor.

Body: 
A way to describe how a cigar lays on your palate in a physical sense, AKA: mouthfeel. Think texture, weight, richness, etc.

Strength: 
Can simply be called the “buzz.” The wonderful effect which nicotine has on your body -- like making your hair feel as though it is sweating. This effect is rated on the aforementioned light to full scale.

Flavor: 
Simply, how a cigar tastes. This can be divided into firstly “magnitude,” Light to medium and all points in-between re: intensity. Secondly, there are “distinctive” tastes which are the familiar four types of tastes: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. I myself add in umami and fat to make six -- but that’s another topic entirely.

Now, let’s make certain that each of us is, in fact, smoking properly -- Please to read my lesson HERE on breathing.

If you are still in the market for a full-bodied offering, hit me up privately. I simply cannot think of a cigar whose manufacturer is paying me to publicly endorse their full-flavored product.
"Handmade vs Hand Rolled. Is there a difference?"

Yes there is indeed a difference. Handmade means that only hands (of the human variety) have been privy and part of the making of that particular offering which is labeled as such.

Hand rolled, on the other hand, well -- “made” and “rolled” -- that second one is a whole heckuva lot more precise, ain’t it? I smell lawyer. In short, offerings touted as “hand rolled” are just that. Rolled by hand. Machines are used to assemble these specimen up to the point of human contact, that being a torcedore rolling on the wrapper.
"How can I get the chemical plastic stink out of my Tupperware before I turn it into a tupperdor?"

Do I look like Martha Stewart, sir?

On the off chance that I do:
in many cases a simple “airing out” will suffice. Failing that, the next step is a washing out either by hand or machine, and then another “airing out.” Thirdly, and this is in the event of the worst case scenario, soak container (and lid) in the sink in a mixture of boiled water, baking soda, and white vinegar. For about a day.

It’s worth noting that the popularity of tupperdors is on the rise, and that stated, you can lay waste to your collection of stogies by mindlessly throwing them in an unexamined stank-filled container. Be careful out there, gentlepersons.

A note: in my experience, I’ve noticed that Tupperware proper, stinks a lot less to high heaven than do some of the cheap-o alternatives. This is a low budget option, as is -- no sense in squeezing more blood out of your nickel and spite your own face by destroying yer sticks.

Try a coolidor.
"What exactly does Maduro mean? I’ve heard it used seemingly different ways."

Maduro is Spanish for a whale’s vagina. No wait -- that’s not right at all. I believe it’s an old, old wooden ship used in the Civil War era -- although that doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, either. I do tend to hear Maduro mentioned in certain circles and in certain ways that would lead to some confusion. Thus stated, let’s leave Ron Burgundy be, and tackle the question at hand.

Maduro: A Spanish term meaning “mature” or “ripe” which applies to a wrapper leaf that is medium or dark brown.

There are several methods used to achieve this complexion, normally dependant upon the hybrid of plant. Some are fermented for longer periods of time, while others are simply left on the plant unpicked until the end of the growing cycle.

Then we see that Maduro is not a type of wrapper per se, nor is it a particular leaf. Almost any tobacco leaf can be processed via fermentation, or allowed become Maduro, when the natural oils within the leaf come to its surface -- causing the color to darken.

Another misconception, which I’ve poked fun at, is that a Maduro wrapper makes for a ‘strong smoke.’ While the process we’ve discussed can and often does enhance the flavors of the smoke, the leaf actually tends toward becoming more mellow. Because of this characteristic, there are many Maduro-wrapped, mild-bodied cigars on the market.

I can only hope, dear gentleperson reader, that you enjoy my A as much as I am grateful for yer Q. You can tweet me your premium tobacco related query @iamkap DMs work, too.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Indian Tabac Cameroon Legend - Cigar Review

Prologue:
11:31am
Is it gauche to pair a lunch-time stogie with Manischewitz Concord Grape? I mean more gauche even than drinking Man, oh Manischewitz, that's good wine! after 5pm? I suppose what I'm asking is, if there is a cap on gauche? I feel, as a p/t etiquette writer -- I should know.

I digress and introduce with a flourish afterward...

The Cigar:
Indian Tabac Cameroon Legend
African Cameroon wrapper
Dominican Republic binder/filler
5 x 52 Robusto
Pre-light:
Subtle and surprising toothiness in a very small amount. Green-tinted amber hues. Pleasing veins with quite “leafy” appearance -- I know, it’s a silly thing to say, but I shall say it. It looks like autumn. Packing is considerably softer at the foot than head. At its firmest, it is of medium to bordering on firm, well shy of rigid, density.

Nose is of a lower end of medium tobacco potency which when sniffed at the foot is none stronger than at the wrapper, which I find odd, given it's ingredients. On the wrapper and foot there too are notes of light coffee, a nutty caramel with a distant backing of a raw almost wet cedar.

Cold pull is of very slight cinnamon on the back of as of yet nondescript sweet spices.

Light:
A rare actually troublesome light, the high/lowlight of which was only half of the foot wanting to burn aglow. Once warm, the pull was of fresh hay and grass and very nice enough. On the back of that initial green, came notes of mildly brewed coffee flavored sparingly with a caramel syrup. Upon retro-hale, a tepid cinnamon chimes in, whispering.

Draw is quite firm in a more lethargic than too-packed sense, and the burn requires a touch-up even before

Act I:
...and the burn refuses correction. Incorrigible! A menace! Aye carumba! Half the burn is slow (the one not proving flammable from the onset) the other faster burning half features an even faster speck that trail blazes ahead up the stick’s side in an expedition which would make proud both Lewis and Clark..

In hopes of un-muddying the tight draw, I Old Timer a hair more of an opening at the head. Not much of a reward there.

Flavor notes remain the same, although the cedar ebbs and flows.

At the close of the first act, a somewhat creamy (or at least creamier) mouthfeel amps up in a vague vanilla introduction.

A nice enough stogie for a coffee break or lunch mate. Absolutely nothing spectacular, but too absolutely nothing putrid, flavor-wise at least. Profile is on-the-nose medium, with perhaps its strength showing a tendency a tad lower. The uneven ash holds to just past an inch when I roll it off in my tray. It is shown to be heavy and dense, with the familiar Dominican medium grey to charcoal complexion. Much more near black than grey.

Another touch-up attempt at the burn fails and I find myself marvelling at how densely bogged down a medium profile stogie can seem. I feel as though I am strolling through the park and my leg is asleep… and low-hanging clouds, heavy with rain, are rolling in. Wasn't it just sunny?

Act II:
This cigar simply does not wish to be smoked. That is the overwhelming sense I get, at least. Construction has softened noticeably, the burn is bad and laborious.

Flavors of a cedar Adirondack left in too many a rain in a grassy pasture. A white pepper is introduced at the draw into that watered down caramel coffee drink. The flavors mostly linger unchanged to the finish, where a varying degree of vague cinnamon meets them. A retro-hale highlights that cinnamon and adds a pinch of salt to the caramel.

There’s no “pop” to the flavors, though. A bogged down feeling permeates throughout. Vanilla weaves in and out, drizzling on and off like a repeated sun shower.

At the half, I think I solve my problem, as I wrangle from the head a solid 2” stem. The draw eases, flavors border on popping. Magnificent clouds of smoke encompass me and I first realize how limited the smoke was prior.

Full of hope and somewhat less full of patience, I slow my pulls to allow a resettling and prepare to address any upcoming transitions or fuller, more delineated notes in

Act III:
In mid-flight, the stick suddenly fizzles and reverts to its previous bogged down quagmire. I am left with the cold realization that the most interesting component of this cigar is its frustrating characteristics.

No nuances, complexities, dimensions, transitions. Just thems low hangin’ clouds full o’ rain. I will say this: it’s a better chew than a smoke. I too will say this: a negro spiritual would pair wonderfully with this offering.
Notes:
"I spent a year in that town, one Sunday." Says George Burns, and I solemnly nod in agreement. I personally spent spent a year in Spokane, Washington, one Sunday. and the weather there matched the feels of this stogie. I can only reiterate: Bogged down. At least Spokane featured a nice enough Gentleman's Club, which  shared a parking lot (if not clientelle) with a Buddhist Temple.

A thought: if this is all about the wrapper, as it seems to be, why a 52 ring gauge which serves only to showcase the Dominican guts?

Pairings
Overshoot the cigar with a Colombian sweetened coffee, or undershoot with a black tea, milk and sugar. Sweet iced tea might give the illusion of a break in the clouds.

Final Grade: D+

Epilogue:
12:46pm
For those who mayn’t know, Rocky Patel discontinued this, its Indian Tabac line at the beginning of this year (2015). Marking the end of a very decent 20 year run. If you didn’t know that, did you know this: I have never been anything other than underwhelmed by Patel offerings.

He seems to have much the same philosophy as does AJ Fernandez, in that they both simply allow the leaf to do its thing -- I’ve used the analogy of Phil Jackson in regards to AJF -- he’s brilliant for NOT coaching Jordan, Bryant, et al. He simply allowed them to shine unimpeded by the tinkering and nit-picking of a lesser coach. Unfortunately, I feel as though Rocky Patel is coaching the Clippers.

That should require a different philosophy.
As always, thanks for reading, gentlepersons. If you enjoyed this post, hey -- maybe someone else would, too. Why not sure it via social media? I’d be forever indebted to your gracious generosity.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Interview w/ Fable Cigars co-Founders

“In 2013, two childhood friends, having grown up around the culture of fine cigars, sparked an idea for an exciting new brand. United through two unlikely stories of immigrant families from opposite corners of the world and a mutual love of art, we created Fable Cigars with the intent of sharing great stories with each series, encouraging you to share yours and offering artfully crafted smokes to bridge them together.


Our journey brought us to the Nica Sueño, RoMa Craft Tobac facilities in Esteli, Nicaragua, for an unforgettable experience made possible by founders Skip Martin and Mike Rosales. Over the course of one year, we worked closely with master blender Esteban Elias Disla Siri, tested a dozen blends, with forty types of the finest grade tobacco, grown under the best conditions, before finally arriving at two truly premium blends for our first series, Fourth Prime.

Sean Kremenetski and I became friends with Skip Martin 2 years ago. We wanted to make our own cigar line and we were fortunate enough for things to workout with Skip and the Roma family. After 2 long years of conceptualizing and a year of blending, we have come up with a stellar brand for the market. I promise you it won’t be disappointing!”

You might have seen this manifesto posted around social media cigar circles. I know I did. I also knew I was greatly intrigued. Mr. Shah and Mr. Kremenetski were quite cordial in my approaching them, and too quite gracious in answering a few questions I had. I greatly appreciate their time. Thank you, sirs.

It's my sincere hope that this is not the last we check in with Mitul and Sean. I definitely don't wish to be a stranger to their running down of a dream, and too don't want my readers to be. Let's all wish them the very best, and hope to see them around these parts again, as they travel further down their shared road.
Kaplowitz: You chose the name Fable for your cigar brand. More than simply a story, the word "fable" denotes the conveyance of a moral. The Internet tells me that the word moral, in that sense is defined as: “a lesson, especially one concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story, a piece of information, or an experience.” How does this connect in your mind to the cigar industry, the smoker’s experience of your offerings, and your role in said industry? I believe there is much to learn in the meditation of cigar enjoyment -- do you agree?

Mitul Shah: For me, throughout two decades in the business, the connection has been more about my customers. When I see my customers enjoying a smoke in one of my lounges, exchanging stories and growing friendships and business relationships. That’s what really motivates me to wake up in the morning, go to my shop and see what new story, connection or relationship I’ll see develop today.

Sean Kremenetski: I strongly believe in using the time you spend with people to learn from them and grow. Sitting down and lighting up a smoke in a room filled with people of different backgrounds is a great opportunity to gain perspective. It’s a collective experience, one that everyone in that room has come to enjoy as much as you have, making it easier and more natural to talk about our lives. The hour you spend smoking a cigar and listening to stories from friends and strangers can give you more insight about yourself than a year in a classroom.

Kap: You mentioned in your company’s manifesto above, that your’s is the story of an immigrant. Too, you mentioned it is Fable’s mission to facilitate the sharing of stories. What does your own story entail?

Mitul: My dad moved to America from India in 1990. He was a very successful architect there, but decided to immigrate to America to give his kids the opportunity for a better education. Not having an American degree, he struggled for a long time and finally made a difficult decision to sell off all of his businesses and land in India and buy his own shop so he could be his own boss. His first business in the U.S. was a gas station and I watched both my parents work day and night to make it work and that really rubbed off on me. So, after years of struggle and the challenges of the ups and downs of owning businesses such as gas stations, grocery stores, hallmark card stores, etc., he finally bought a gas station in 1995, right around the time of the cigar boom. It sold cigars out of two cabinets and started doing really well. He realized he was more successful out of those two cabinets than he was the rest of the store, so he learned through Cigar Aficionado what to buy and what to sell and through trial and error he grew the business. I was with him every step of the way, learning from him and being groomed to one day take over.

Sean: I grew up in what was still Soviet Russia at the time. We were in a tiny village a couple hours north of Moscow, with few people and fewer opportunities. As a kid, I didn’t know the difference, but my parents were never content with their situation. One year, my mother took a trip to Tokyo and came back with culture shock. There were possibilities out there that we could never have where we were. It didn’t take much to convince my father to move our family to the U.S. When we got here, we lived in a small studio apartment in Sheepshead Bay with our grandmother for a whole year before my parents were able to find menial work. My mom worked in a hair salon while my dad attended an unaccredited school to learn computer programming. This was in the 90s, when programming demand took off. My father quickly got a job and it was my mother’s turn to go through the same school. They busted their butts and the opportunities quickly followed. Three years later, we moved to the suburbs and soon owned a home. There’s no mystery to where my work ethic came from. They followed their dreams, changed their lives and mine, and it feels great to be doing the same thing.

Kap: You “worked closely with master blender Esteban Elias Disla Siri, tested a dozen blends, with forty types of the finest grade tobacco, grown under the best conditions, before finally arriving at two truly premium blends for our first series, Fourth Prime.” What was on your mind, as you tested those blends? Were you attempting to create a mood, a distinct flavor, or simply attempting to showcase the very best tobacco you could garner? In other words, were you trying to make the best cigar you could, or the best cigar for a certain purpose? If purpose driven, what was that purpose?

Mitul: I wanted to make the best cigars I could for my palate. Being in the business so long, I have seen it all and smoked it all. I have never been stuck on one cigar, always trying different brands and flavor profiles. All of this finally brought me to the CroMagnon Aquitaine Cranium and I have rarely smoked anything since, because it hit my palette perfectly. Notes of wood, with a little bite and a hint of sweetness. So, when I was blending, I wanted to hit my palate just right, with similar notes, spice and sweetness to have that perfect blend that I can smoke every day and put my name on it. I knew if I blended the perfect cigar for my palate I will have made something that all of my customers over the years can enjoy.

Sean: Mitul and have a similar profile, but we differ when it comes to strength. I’ve always preferred cigars on the milder side, with notes of cedar, nuts, more on the sweeter side, with changing flavors in the life of a cigar. I’ve drawn my inspiration from the Avo 88 Limited Edition and the Cuban Cohiba Siglo VI. When blending, my purpose is to end up with a cigar with a rolling flavor profile, almost as if I want to forget I’m smoking a cigar and focus instead on the conversation around me or whatever else I happen to be doing at the time.

Kap: Speaking to boutique blends, in a very general sense -- something i’ve noticed among some brands is an imbalance between timeless tastes and fads. Many a boutique blend jumps on board the current “big thing” and does not pay enough attention, in my opinion, to the timeless tradition of flavor. How do you seek a balance for Fable Cigars, between tradition and progress?

Mitul: I’ve been learning as much as I could from Skip Martin. I’ve seen his determination to work with the best tobaccos that he can get his hands on and, it’s funny, I realized I have a similar mindset. I don’t like to take short cuts, I like to work hard on everything I do and coming up with blends the traditional way is hard because there’s nothing fad about it.

Sean: I have to go with Mitul on this one. While I haven’t been exposed to as much as he has, there were plenty of times he brought my attention to fad cigars that draw you in with marketing but ultimately lack the substance to survive. The quick cash grab may work and if we decided to go that route, we may see success with it, but that’s not why we decided to do this. We want to challenge ourselves and put our combined experience to the test to create the kind of blends that keep refilling humidors.

Kap: You begin shipping your first offering, Fourth Prime, in January 2016. Can you share the blend profile with me? Where did the name come from?
Mitul: The profile takes a combination of Pennsylvania, Pueblo Nuevo and Dominicano viso and ligero, and wraps it up with an amazing Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper. It’s a premium wrapper, costly, but worth every penny.

Sean: We arrived at Fourth Prime after tossing around several ideas over the course of a year. Eventually, we decided to pair our love of story with something timeless, which is the number 7. It’s a cross cultural number that you can find in every aspect of that culture, whether it’s faith, human achievement, or sheer coincidence. Behind every occurrence, there is a story more unlikely than the next, taking for the example the Wonders of the World or the Deadly Sins. Each vitola in our series will have ties to that number and its significance to history and culture.

Kap: On Fable’s Facebook Page (link at the end of this post), it is said we should, “Pour yourself the perfect drink, pick up a good book, have a seat, crop the cap of a Fable cigar and enjoy the story.” What is your perfect drink and atmospheric pairing with which to enjoy a good smoke? Set the perfect scenario for me…

Mitul: In my lounge, smoking a good cigar, with a Snapple peach iced tea. I also don't like sitting outdoors to smoke, unless it's at a beach or on a boat.
Sean: The Balvenie 15, single malt, single barrel sherry cask, outside, at a barbecue, with close friends and family. Perfect.

Kap: Now that we’ve covered the external, let’s narrow our gaze to the pinpoint of a cigar itself. What is the single characteristic, inherent in a cigar, which can make or break the experience? What one thing is of the utmost importance?

Mitul: Consistency. If I light up a cigar and it tastes and smokes a certain way, I want that experience every single time. The second it changes, I'm drawn away from it. This is another reason why I smoke the Aquitaine Cranium from RoMa Craft. It is, for me, the most consistent affordable cigar I've ever smoked.

Sean: Complexity. Being a smoker of milder cigars, a complex flavor profile is key. A one note cigar, whether or not that note tastes good, gets boring and is ultimately forgettable. I want my smoking experience to flow with different flavors. I love the surprise of going through the first inch of a cigar and finding depth in the next inch, all the way down to the finish.
Please visit the Fable Cigar site HERE
& like Fable on Facebook HERE
Look for them on all forms of social media.

Make sure to tell 'em Kap sent ya, and as always, thanks ever so kindly for reading.