Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gift Review – CAO Criollo Conquistador

Another in our ongoing series of occasional reviews of cigars given to us as gifts. Featured this time is the CAO Criollo “Conquistador”, given to me by club Charter member Pat back in December of ‘08.

Vitola: Figurado
Origin: Nicaragua
Length: 6 1/8"
Ring Gauge: 52
Filler: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Strength: Medium
MSRP: $8.85

Produced by CAO International of Nashville, this Nicaraguan puro features a dark, rich looking Cuban-seed wrapper and a skillfully tapered torpedo shape. The current Cigar Aficionado rating for it is 88 (June, 2004).

As is typical with our reviews, I followed CA's 4-part rating system (Appearance & Construction, Flavor, Smoking Characteristics, and Overall Impression). In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I actually conducted this tasting back in October of ‘09. The holiday season has been busy so I’m just getting around to this posting.

With a severe conical-shaped head, it appeared very well-shaped. The wrapper was toothy like a coarse sandpaper. Unfortunately, there were some unsightly ridges beneath the wrapper. The draw was a little firm for my liking, but manageable. The ability of this cigar to burn is where things soon went downhill. Also the smoke produced was a bit thin, undoubtedly due to the firm draw.

The flavor started out woody and sweet like hickory chips then it changed to a slightly more pungent cedar with a bit of silage (fermented grain). The second half showed stages of bitterness.

Getting back to the burn, it was nothing short of atrocious. The constant relighting and coaxing was an incredible drag.

My rating for the CAO Criollo Conquistador is 78.
Here's the points breakdown:
I. Appearance & Construction: 13 pts (87% of the points possible)
II. Flavor: 21 pts (84% of the points possible)
III. Smoking Characteristics: 17 pts (68% of the points possible)
IV. Overall Impression: 27 pts (77% of the points possible)

All in all, a very demanding effort just to keep the cigar going; which really hurt the experience. Too bad because there was definitely some complexity to the flavors which probably warrant a second try.

Thanks Pat, for the Christmas gift!

© 2010 The Cohiba Club - All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cigar Review – Room 101 Robusto "305"

This is the first in a new series of reviews of cigars given to us by J&J Cigars of Shoreline. We're very pleased to have this relationship with such a fine tobacconist and are looking forward to reviewing many great cigars from his vast stock in the months ahead. Featured this time is the Room 101 “305”.

Vitola: Robusto
Origin: Honduras
Length: 5”
Ring Gauge: 50
Filler: Honduras, Dom. Rep.
Binder: Honduras
Wrapper: Semilla 101 (Honduras)
Strength: Medium
Price: $7.50

Produced by Camacho Cigars for brand owner Matt Booth, it features a dark, rich looking wrapper called Semilla 101 selected just for this cigar. Musician and accessory apparel designer, Booth also crafts sheik cigar cutters and lighters clad in sterling silver; among other luxury items.

Conducting this review was Cohiba Club Charter Member Joe and fellow club members Bruce and Peter. As is our usual method for reviewing and rating cigars, they followed Cigar Aficionado's 4-part rating system (Appearance & Construction, Flavor, Smoking Characteristics, and Overall Impression).

With a sturdy looking parejo shape, the appearance is initially pleasing to the eye. The head’s cap did look a little rough around it’s circumference. The texture was a tad dry to the touch, but smooth, and no offending veins were observed. The only troublesome attribute may have been a few soft spots or voids detected beneath this pretty wrapper.

The draw was very free flowing, in fact too fast on a couple of these sticks. The burn was mostly even and needed little or no re-lights along the way. One upside of the fast draw was voluminous smoke it produced. The ash was very stable, holding on for an impressive length.

The flavor for Pete and Bruce was mostly woody, a little dry, giving way to some bitterness near the end. Joe, on the other hand, found it beginning rich and dark in character, then mellowing as he got into the middle portion. He added that there were some intermittent fruity tones at one point. The three of them experience quite a bit of variation in their tasting impressions, with assessments ranging from ‘average’ to ‘very good’. Clearly the difference in palates was showing through here.

After averaging their scores, our rating for the Room 101 “305” is 84.
Here's the points breakdown:
I. Appearance & Construction: 13 pts (87% of the points possible)
II. Flavor: 21 pts (84% of the points possible)
III. Smoking Characteristics: 21 pts (84% of the points possible)
IV. Overall Impression: 29 pts (83% of the points possible)

In the final analysis, this cigar inspired a mixed response. One of our tasters liked it, the other two (these guys grade tough) need to try more before making up their minds. Good advice, indeed – for all of us!
Head over to J&J Cigars in Shoreline and pick up a few.

Thanks to John of J&J for giving us the opportunity to review this intriguing cigar!

Photo credit to Room 101 Cigars.

© 2010 The Cohiba Club – All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Herf 31 – Welcome Back, Jak!

January 3rd, 2010 – Snoqualmie, WA

In attendance were Fernand, Robert, John L., Joe, Bruce, Patrick (remotely), Peter, John D., and Daniel (10-7ha). As usual, we gathered to enjoy a recently recommended cigar and give our opinion on it by holding a 'group-tasting' following dinner.

Seven of the nine of us had dinner at Jak’s in Issaquah on the way to the herf. If you’ve never visited this house of beef, you are missing out on one of the true pleasures in life; ranking right up there with cigars, naturally. Just walking through the door virtually guaranties you one of the best meat experiences you may ever encounter. Best of all, you will leave with not only your appetite fully satiated, but also your wallet mostly intact. The popular dish of the night was their signature Cowboy Rib-Eye with Potato Pancakes. Incredible!

Our selection for this herf was the Xikar HC Habano Colorado Belicoso. This figurado was our Cigar of the Week back on December 7th. The current Cigar Aficionado rating for the HC is 92 (June, 2009). With dinner behind us, it was time to head down the freeway a few exits to Snoqualmie Casino.

Following CA's 4-part rating system (Appearance & Construction, Flavor, Smoking Characteristics, and Overall Impression) we settled in at Lit Lounge to begin this tasting, enjoying the respite from the cold weather herfs we’d been having during the previous months.

Upon initial examination of these HCs, a few of us immediately notice cracked wappers. Most were about an inch long and near the foot. The texture was toothy, velvety with a very nice roll quality featuring a skillfully tapered head. The veins that did jump out at us were moderate at worst. Only a couple of our nine samples were without flaws, unfortunately, which leaves one wondering about the state of Xikar’s quality control.

Most of these cigars drew and burned pretty well. A couple, however, drew too tight and needed continuous touch-ups or even re-lights. The quality of smoke and ash varied considerably, with some producing little or thin smoke along with ash that flaked and fell without warning. About half performed beautifully while the others were pretty poor.

The flavors were mild and enjoyable to start off, with very easy-going, mostly woody flavors. The first third seems to have faired the best, ultimately, with smooth, creamy impressions across our group of nine tasters. Some of us began to sense a little driness through the middle. A couple of us found slight notes of chocolate or vanilla bean, but not much more. The latter portion of these sticks seemed to get a little bitter for most of us. The common theme that resulted for our group was one of being underwhelmed. It just didn’t give us enough in the flavor department to consider trying it again.

After throwing out the highest and lowest, then averaging the remaining scores, The Cohiba Club's official rating for the HC Habano Colorado Belicoso is 80. A good, but not great, cigar.

Here's the points breakdown:
I. Appearance & Construction: 12 pts (80% of the points possible)
II. Flavor: 20 pts (80% of the points possible)
III. Smoking Characteristics: 20 pts (80% of the points possible)
IV. Overall Impression: 28 pts (80% of the points possible)

At the end of the night our experience with this cigar was a bit off from the 92 awarded by CA. Actually, in all honesty, a couple of us did have that experience, but the majority did not. Most of us were left wanting more. Still, a very enjoyable evening spent in the company of friends! What's not to like.

Many thanks to Josh and his staff at Lit Lounge for catering to our every need! The humidor showcases many fine brands and the bar is well-stocked. You’ll be greeted with a friendly face and every effort will be made to ensure your comfort.

See you at the next herf, February 7th.

Photo credit to Daniel of 10-7ha.

© 2010 The Cohiba Club – All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Herf Cigar of the Year for 2009

Here at The Cohiba Club, we do our COTY at little differently. Instead of arbitrarily picking what we think is the the best cigar from the vast number of available prospects, we make our selection from the cigars jointly enjoyed at our herfs, held during the past calendar year.

For this past year, that means we went back and looked at the results from Herfs 20 through 30. Yes, that's only eleven herfs for the last 12 months. We weren't able to hold one in July because too many members were out-of-town for the July Fourth holiday weekend.

The cigars considered for 2009 were as follows (with our ratings for each):

Casa Magna Gran Toro (88) – herf 20
Don Pepin Garcia Blue Label Lancero (83) – herf 21
Oliva Serie V Lancero a score (85) – herf 21
Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Legend Challenger (82) – herf 22
Vegas Cubanas Robusto (89) – herf 22
LG Diez 2008 Chisel Puro (88) – herf 23
Pinar Del Río Habano Sun-Grown Double-Corona (83) – herf 24
Cabaiguan Guapos Junior (90) – herf 25
Rocky Patel Decade Robusto (93) – herf 26
601 Maduro Toro (86) – herf 27
Don Carlos No. 3 (88) – herf 28
Ambos Mundos Habano Robusto (84) – herf 29
Padilla Signature 1932 Torpedo (89) – herf 30
That's 13 cigars for 11 herfs because, as you can see, two of the herfs (21 & 22) featured two cigars pitted against each other in a blind tasting format.

After much deliberation, the winning cigar chosen by the club's founders is...

This cigar won not just because of it's high rating of 93 (averaged from our group of tasters at herf #26, but also because on looking back upon what we thought of that Decade, it was plainly obvious to us that there simply weren't many deductions one could make of that cigar. Thus it was unanimous that our Cigar of the Year is the Rocky Patel Decade Robusto. A great cigar indeed, and if you haven't tried one yet, get crackin'.

Honorable Mention goes to:

Don Pepin Garcia Blue Label Lancero (herf 21)
Cabaiguan Guapos Junior (herf 25)
Padilla Signature 1932 Torpedo [1st Gen., by Pepin] (herf 30)
All great cigars, deserving of our praise. What a great year of cigars, 2009. One can only imagine the year of great cigars ahead.

2010, here we come! We can't wait to see what you've got in store for us...