Camacho Double Shock

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Since rebooting its brand a couple of years back, Camacho has sought to broaden its appeal by introducing a series of limited-edition cigars, such as the Blackout and this year’s American Barrel-Aged. Between those two sticks came the Double Shock, a barber-pole offering featuring two wrappers. The Double Shock has been on the market for a while, but it’s still available in brick-and-mortars and online, so it’s getting a test drive here. Better late than never.

CIGAR STATS: The Double Shock’s two-tone look is courtesy of Ecuadoran Habano and Mexican San Andres wrappers around a Criollo binder and Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Pennsylvania filler leaves. It is offered in five sizes: Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 50), Churchill (7 x 48), Figurado (6 1/8 x 54 x 42), and Gordo (6 x 60). Prices range from $11-13 per stick. This review is based on smoking the Robusto.

APPEARANCE: This is an eye-catching cigar – alternating light and dark stripes, expertly wrapped, with a triple cap and few veins. There is some oil, and it’s firm to the touch.

THE SMOKE: There is quite a bit of sweetness in the cold draw, but once it is lit and after the first bit of pepper, the dominant notes are wood (cedar) and earth. An inch or two in, some coffee and sweetness join the party in a fairly smooth blend. Later on, some floral notes materialize. There is little change to the flavor profile in the second half of the smoke. The Double Shock is billed as a full-bodied cigar, but it felt closer to the medium range of the spectrum to this palate. The draw was fairly easy, and the burn line got a little uneven in the second half of the smoke, requiring a couple of touch-ups.

VERDICT: The Double Shock is an intriguing stick, and the first half of the smoke delivered a good measure of flavor and aroma. The second half of the experience was a bit underwhelming, so the return on the investment could have been better. It falls somewhere between must-try and don’t-bother. – Brian Coyne

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Quesada 40th Anniversary

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Released in 2014, but only recently available in our neck of the woods, the 40th Anniversary line is a celebration of Quesada’s 40 years in the cigar industry.

CIGAR STATS: Crafted by Master Blender and company President, Manuel Quesada Jr., the Corona Clasica (6.5 x 46, $9.25) is one of six cigars that make up the 40th Anniversary line. While the other five, blended by Manuel’s daughters, Patricia and Raquel, sport a Mexican San Andres wrapper, the Corona Clasica is covered in an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper with a Dominican Criollo binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers.

APPEARANCE: The Corona Clasica has a silky, honey-colored wrapper that is covered on the lower half with a thin, white tissue paper that helps to protect the delicate Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf while also giving it a somewhat sophisticated look.

THE SMOKE: The Corona Clasica starts off with a mild spice and some natural tobacco sweetness. As the spice backs off, cedar and citrus move in to take over the driver’s seat. These flavors dominate for a while before some floral notes join in to make it a threesome. The cedar, citrus, and tobacco sweetness all stay put for the finish while the spice from the beginning returns to replace the floral notes. Throughout the review the ash holds firm and the burn line remains relatively straight with only one touch-up required.

VERDICT: The Quesada 40th Anniversary Corona Clasica is a smooth, flavorful smoke that is mild-to-medium in strength and  medium-to-full in body. I highly recommend you grab a cup of your favorite coffee and head on over to Mickey Blake’s in Southington (where I got mine) to light one up. For more information about the 40th Anniversary line, or the entire line of Quesada cigars, visit: www.quesadacigars.com – Jason Zahner

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CAO Pilón

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Released at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show, the CAO Pilón travels back in time, more than 100 years, to reintroduce us to a fermentation technique that had long since been forgotten due to the process being very costly and extremely time consuming. From their website: “With CAO Pilón, we’re bringing back the round pilón from old-world Cuba. Skilled men called pilóneros were masters of a slow, 18-month long fermentation technique using round pilóns. This method involved hemming tobacco leaves together and stacking them, layer by layer, in a circular pattern. This method of natural fermentation maximized the flavor and color of the leaves.”

CIGAR STATS: Crafted by Master Blender Rick Rodriguez, the Pilón consists of an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper and a Nicaraguan binder and filler. Originally offered in 20-count boxes in just 3 vitolas, Corona (5.5 x 44), Robusto (5 x 52), and Churchill (7 x 48), the Pilón is now also available in a Toro (6 x 58) and a Torpedo (7 x 54) and can be found for as little as $6 – $8 per stick. I went with the classic Churchill for this review.

APPEARANCE: The CAO Pilón Churchill is just a shade north of medium brown with an oily sheen that highlights an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper with few veins and tight seams. The white band features the cigar’s stats, Rick Rodriguez’s signature, and an illustration of a round pilón on the back.

THE SMOKE: The CAO Pilón is a relatively mild-to-medium smoke with hints of pepper in the background that never leave the shadows. The predominant flavors of cedar, nuts, and an underlying natural tobacco sweetness were around from the get-go and stayed until the party flamed out. My Churchill required no touch-ups and the burn line was straight all the way from toe to tap out.

VERDICT: The CAO Pilón is a tasty blend with an interesting back-story that will appeal to all types of cigar smokers. And with excellent construction and a sticker price geared for the budget-minded crowd, the CAO Pilón is a must try! For more information about the CAO Pilón, or the entire line of CAO cigars, visit: www.caocigars.com – Jason Zahner

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Henry Clay Stalk Cut

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Altadis has invested quite a bit of energy into breathing new life into its Henry Clay line. Last year, it introduced the Henry Clay Tattoo in collaboration with Pete Johnson of Tatuaje. This year, it’s the Henry Clay Stalk Cut, developed by Altadis’ Grupo de Maestros. Stalk Cut refers to a method of harvesting tobacco that is unique to Connecticut Broadleaf, in which the entire plant is cut in the field and hung in the curing barn.

CIGAR STATS: The Stalk Cut features the aforementioned Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper around Dominican Olor and Piloto and Nicaraguan Criollo filler, and Dominican Piloto binder. It is offered in three sizes – Grand Corona (6 x 46), Robusto (5 x 50), and Toro (6 x 54) – ranging in price from $8-8.50. I smoked the Toro for this review.

APPEARANCE: The Stalk Cut’s dark brown wrapper features a few veins, and the stick has a bump or two, but it’s well-constructed with a triple cap, a modified box-press shape, and a springy feel. Two bands adorn it, but since both are tasteful and economical in size, that’s quite all right with this smoker.

THE SMOKE: It exudes a fair amount of rich tobacco aroma before the light, and the same holds true after the flame is applied. After the early blast of pepper, the first flavor note that comes to the fore is wood, predominantly cedar. Along for the ride is some earthiness as well. About a third to halfway in, some pleasant hay and floral notes develop, along with a touch of sweetness from the wrapper. For the rest of the smoke, that flavor profile holds without ever getting harsh. The draw is firm, and the burn line is fairly consistent, needing only one slight touchup.

VERDICT: The Henry Clay Stalk Cut is a full-bodied smoke, but it’s not in the least overwhelming. It provides a tasty, 90-minute (or so) smoke without breaking the bank. That makes it a must-try in this book. For more information about the Henry Clay Stalk Cut or the entire line of Altadis cigars visit: www.altadisusa.com – Brian Coyne

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Warped Corto X50

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As I sat on my porch this past weekend, I wasn’t expecting too much from the little Robusto in my hand. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard great things about Warped Cigars and head honcho Kyle Gellis, but the diminutive stature and understated band on the Corto X50 belied a mouth-watering flavor bomb with a punch! The Corto (Spanish for short) is Warped Cigars first full-bodied blend, and Kyle plans to introduce a new size in the series each year at the IPCPR trade show in July, at which time the previous year’s size will then be retired.

CIGAR STATS: Blended at Casa Fernandez’s Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, the Corto X50 is a Nicaraguan puro measuring 4.5 x 50. It has a single stick MSRP of $8.95 but can be found in boxes of 25 for as little as $150, which is a steal at that price.

APPEARANCE: As I mentioned above, the band didn’t really catch my eye, but the Cuban-styled box press certainly did, as well as the medium-brown, practically vein-free Aganorsa leaf that surrounds the innards of this little beauty.

THE SMOKE: The Corto X50 starts off spicy but quickly dials it down to just the right amount of pepper. It is at this point that the flavor roller coaster starts its ride, and each time it comes back around it picks up a passenger or two, like black coffee and honey or leather and caramel. By the time the short little ride is over, your head is spinning and the flavors are just too numerous to mention, other than they were all fantastic! And the whole time that the amusement park was open, the draw was perfect and the burn required zero touchups.

VERDICT: The Warped Corto X50 is medium in strength and full in flavor, and if you can’t tell already, I absolutely love this cigar. Heck, halfway through the review I was already looking for boxes online. For more information about the Corto X50 or the entire line of Warped cigars visit: www.warpedcigars.com – Jason Zahner

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Camacho American Barrel-Aged

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The venerable Camacho brand underwent a reboot a couple of years back. While the makeover has been largely cosmetic, Camacho has added new production lines to its portfolio. The American Barrel-Aged line, launched last summer, is one of them. A blend of American leaves, for the most part, it is also part of a growing trend that seeks to incorporate elements of liquor and beer into the cigar-making process. In this case, the Barrel-Aged features 6-year-old Corojo tobacco that is finished for five months in bourbon barrels. OK, they have our attention now.

CIGAR STATS: The American Barrel-Aged is produced in the Dominican Republic and it brings together the aforementioned Honduran Corojo with American Broadleaf and Pennsylvania Maduro as filler and binder, with an American Broadleaf wrapper. It is offered in three sizes: Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 50), and Gordo (6 x 60). It retails in the $10-$12 range per stick. I smoked the Robusto for this review.

APPEARANCE: A striking black, silver and bronze band adorns a dark brown stick that has a little oil, a few thin veins, and is tightly wrapped. All in all, it’s an appealing sight.

THE SMOKE: After lighting up, the smoker is hit with a blast of pepper and lots of rich aroma. Soon, the dominant flavor note is wood, and lots of it, along with earth and a bit of coffee and licorice. The wrapper adds a nice note of sweetness. While it is a strong blend, it’s not overpowering, and the flavors hold together right to the end. The draw is smooth, and the burn line required zero touch-ups.

VERDICT: The American Barrel-Aged offers a flavorful medium- to full-bodied smoking experience of 90 minutes or so. In other words, it is definitely worth seeking out. To learn more about it, visit camachocigars.com. – Brian Coyne

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Espinosa Laranja Reserva

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It took a while but we’re finally getting around to reviewing one of my favorite cigars, the Espinosa Laranja Reserva. Released in September of 2014 at the IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas, owner Erik Espinosa had this to say about his latest line:

“I wanted to release something different for the show, we had started working with this orange Brazilian Laranja wrapper last year and we are very excited with the end result. I have always liked the color orange (laranja is the Portuguese word for orange) and the positive energy associated with that color. It is the color of enthusiasm, creativity, determination and success, that’s what we are all about here.”

CIGAR STATS: Blended and rolled at the La Zona factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, the Laranja Reserva features the aforementioned Brazilian wrapper from the Recôncavo region in the state of Bahia, with a Nicaraguan binder and filler. The Laranja Reserva, offered in boxes of 20, is available in four sizes: Corona Gorda (5.625 x 46, $9.90), Robusto Extra (5.5 x 54, $10.50), Toro (6 x 52, $10.90), and the new line extension, the box-pressed Caixa (6.5”x48, $11.50). We chose to put the orange spotlight on the Robusto Extra.

APPEARANCE: Whether it’s the orange, white, and gold band or the bright orange ribbon on the foot, the medium-brown Brazilian wrapper really does have an orange-ish tint to it. Add to that the small veins, clean seams, and the neatly applied triple cap, and you’ve got yourself one fantastic looking cigar.

THE SMOKE: After the initial pepper blast the Laranja Reserva rewards the smoker with cedar, citrus, and natural tobacco flavors. These flavors battle the peppery spice until the 2 inch mark, where a mild, creamy sweetness replaces the pepper. From here until the last inch or so the cedar, citrus, natural tobacco, and creamy sweetness really shine, working together in perfect flavor harmony. The remainder brought back the pepper and amped-up the citrus. Throughout the review, the burn line remained fairly straight and didn’t require a single touch-up.

VERDICT: The Laranja Reserva is Erik Espinosa’s finest cigar to date. And that’s saying alot considering the  multitude of amazing smokes that come out of his La Zona factory. It offers great flavors and complexity, excellent construction, and a wrapper that isn’t the same-old, same-old. With the Laranja Reserva, Erik Espinosa has created a unique cigar that ultimately made my decision for a box purchase an easy one. For more information about the Laranja Reserva or the entire line of Espinosa Cigars, please visit: www.espinosacigars.com – Jason Zahner

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MBombay Corojo Oscuro

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Bombay Tobak is the brainchild of Mel Shah, a wine and cigar retailer in California who entered the creative end of the cigar industry a few years back. His Mbombay line has produced a variety of flavorful offerings, such as the Kesara and Mora blends. The Corojo Oscuro seeks, in the company’s words, to deliver “balanced strength and a full-bodied experience,” a worthwhile goal indeed.

CIGAR STATS: This stick features an Ecuadorian Corojo Oscuro wrapper around Ecuadorian binder leaves and filler from Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic. Produced in Costa Rica, it is offered in six sizes: Robusto (4½ x 50), Perfecto (5½ x 50), Belicoso (5 x 50), Gordo (6 x 60), Churchill (7 x 48), and Double Corona (7 x 52). It retails in the $11.50-$12 range. I smoked the Belicoso for this review.

APPEARANCE: The dark brown wrapper is adorned by an ornate, way-too-large band that pays homage to Bombay’s heritage. Fortunately, beneath the big band is a smaller one that does not get in the way of the actual smoking of the cigar. It is a tightly rolled stick that’s a little on the hard side, with a noticeable vein or two.

THE SMOKE: Before the light, it exudes a sweet, classic tobacco aroma that bodes well for the smoke. After the flame and a blast of pepper, a strong but pleasant mix of wood (cedar), earth and coffee develops, with a sweet aftertaste. Around the midpoint, the coffee gets stronger along with the wood, and there are a few floral notes. The draw is smooth and the burn line is consistent throughout the smoke.

VERDICT: The Corojo Oscuro is a hearty, flavorful smoke that is clearly of the full-bodied variety. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s a fine antidote to the blast of winter that we are experiencing – as long as you can find someplace indoors to smoke. It is definitely worth searching out. To learn more about the Corojo Oscuro and the other Mbombay offerings, visit bombaytobak.com. – Brian Coyne

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Joya De Nicaragua Cuatro Cinco

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In 2013, celebrating their 45th anniversary, Joya de Nicaragua released Cuatro Cinco Edición Limitada, a Nicaraguan puro with five year old ligeros aged inside vintage oak barrels. Blended in one size, in just 4,500 boxes of 10, the Limited Edition sold out in a few short weeks. This immediate popularity led to the release, in late June of last year, of the Cuatro Cinco Reserva Especial.

CIGAR STATS: The Reserva Especial is a “carefully modified recipe” containing a selection of barrel-aged Grade A fillers, a shade-grown habano wrapper from the Jalapa valley’ and a volado Dominican binder. Unlike the Limited Edition, the Reserva Especial is a regular production line available in four soft-box pressed vitolas: Petit Corona (4 ½ x 46, $8), Doble Robusto (5 x 56, $10.50), Toro (6¼ x 50, $11.50) and Torpedo (6 x 52, $12.50). For this review we chose the Doble Robusto.

APPEARANCE: The shade grown habano wrapper is dark and sultry with a fair share of veins and a neatly applied triple cap. The band, which is actually a black band on top of a white one, is almost as pretty to look at as the cigar itself.

THE SMOKE: Black pepper immediately smacks you in the face as if to say “pay attention knucklehead, this is going to be good.” And it is! Black coffee, leather and a cocoa sweetness float in and out of this full-bodied smoke, keeping the black pepper at a reasonable, well-balanced distance for the better part of the review. And a super-thick smoke and razor-straight burn line make the entire experience that much more enjoyable.

VERDICT: If you haven’t already guessed, I really enjoyed the Joya de Nicaragua Cuatro Cinco Reserva Especial. Great appearance, great flavors, great construction. What else is there to say, except … for more information about the Cuatro Cinco Reserva Especial or the entire line of Joya de Nicaragua cigars, visit: joyacigars.com — Jason Zahner

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Foundry Bolivar 550

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Foundry Tobacco Company, part of the General Cigar family, has been a busy outfit in its three years of existence, releasing a variety of limited-batch sticks. This year’s project has been focused on reaching back into Cuba’s rich cigar heritage and re-imagining two of its iconic lines – Ramon Allones and Bolivar. We test drove the Allones venture a couple of months back, to great satisfaction. Now it’s time to see what the Bolivar has to offer.

CIGAR STATS: The Bolivar features a Connecticut-grown Habano seed wrapper around an Ecuadoran Sumatra binder, and filler leaves from Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. It is offered in three sizes: 550 (5 x 50), 652 (6 x 52), and 660 (6 x 60), with suggested prices ranging from $6.49-$7.49. I smoked a pair of 550s for this review.

APPEARANCE: The dark brown Bolivar is a bit oily, very lightly veined and expertly rolled, with a covered foot and a little pigtail cap. It is springy to the touch, but not soft.

THE SMOKE: After the light and an early blast of pepper, the predominant flavors are a pleasant blend of wood (seems like oak) and earth. As the smoke progresses, there is quite a bit of sweetness, like chocolate, added to the mix. This medium-bodied stick produces a good amount of rich aroma, and is definitely on the slow-smoking side. Expect to spend a good 90 minutes or more with this one. The draw is easy and the burn line fairly consistent.

VERDICT: The Bolivar is a good, solid smoke, and the price is consumer-friendly. To this palate, the Ramon Allones is the more flavorful of Foundry’s Cuban twinbill, but the Bolivar is clearly worth a try. — Brian Coyne

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