<< Back to Robb Report, December 2012

And to All a Good Light

  • Richard Carleton Hacker

Cigar smokers have cause to be especially joyous this season, for not since the Great Cigar Boom of the 1990s has such an abundance of hand-rolled riches been laid before them. This bounty has resulted, in part, from increased competition, as new cigar makers have entered the field and older, more established brands have felt compelled to introduce new offerings. Consequently, this year’s cigars are fatter, stronger, more exotic, and better embellished. Ring gauges have expanded to 60, and rumors suggest that 70-ring stogies—more than an inch in diameter—are in the works. Bands have morphed into miniature works of modern art: One steampunk-style cigar is even fitted with a metal cog. Meanwhile, the cigars themselves—made with vintage and exotic tobaccos blended in a growing array of styles—have become ever more complex and powerful. So sit back, light up, and savor the scents and tastes of this season’s extraordinary smokes.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

The Inch Series by E.P. Carrillo
The diameter of a cigar is measured in rings, a unit unique to the industry that equals one-sixty-fourth of an inch. Now, with 60 as the ring gauge du jour, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo brings us a cigar that surpasses even this milestone. EPC’s No. 64 Inch, a 6? × 64 behemoth, is exactly 1 inch in diameter. Appropriately, the band is copied from a 1950s ruler. With Nicaraguan and Dominican filler, Nicaraguan binder, and a choice of Ecuador Sumatra or Connecticut broadleaf wrappers, the cigar has a strength that, while mildly spicy, is not overpowering. Less intimidating ring gauges of 60 and 62 are also included in the Inch family. ($7.75–$10) www.epcarrillo.com

Arsen Pink for Men
We will admit to being at first put off by the color of the band: Pink is a color virtually unseen in the predominantly male world of cigars. But appearances can be deceiving. This Dominican Republic puro, with its 3-year-old, shade-grown Habano Vuelta Abajo wrapper, is a decidedly muscular smoke. The maker offers four different sizes, each crafted in the Augusto Reyes factory and then aged for a minimum of five months. The toro is our particular favorite. ($6.40–$7) www.arsencigars.com, www.vitolier.net

Paul Stulac
On meeting the quiet, unassuming Paul Stulac at his Smoke on the Water tobacco shop in Nova Scotia, few would guess that he is responsible for conjuring such Goth-themed cigars. Despite their slightly ominous bands bearing winged skulls, these gently box-pressed Nicaraguan smokes impart rich, engaging, and flavorful leather and wood essences—the results of an all-Nicaraguan binder and filler teamed with 4-year-old Ecuador Habano or Brazilian Araparica maduro wrappers. Five sizes are on offer: 6 × 58 Ghost, 5 × 58 Angel, 6 × 53 Phantom, 7 × 58 Skull, and 6 × 64 Cross. Lurking in the shadows is the tubed 6 × 58 Vampire, which will be available in the New Year. ($8–$10) www.paulstulac.com

Foundry
Top marks for innovation go to this cigar, which invokes both the fiction of H. G. Wells (after whom one of the shapes is named) and the modern steampunk movement. Four shapes are available, each made of five proprietary tobaccos—aged from three to six years—from four unnamed countries and sporting an 8-year-old wrapper known only as H-47 Pleno Sol. The Cayley, a 6½ × 60 figurado that resembles Dr. Zarkov’s spaceship from the Flash Gordon television series, caught our attention, as did the metal gear serving as a band on each cigar. ($7.95–$9.45) www.cigarworld.com

La Gloria Cubana Liga LR-1 and Liga YG-23
It is always a pleasure to find a cigar that one can smoke down to the band, but we have recently discovered two that one can smoke beyond that point. Both LR-1 and YG-23 are factory codes for these medium- to full-bodied cigars. The 7 × 52 Liga LR-1 features a die-cut tobacco-leaf band, while the Liga YG-23 sports a band of HTL (homogenized tobacco leaf) imprinted with vegetable dye. Smokers with moustaches and beards should take extra care. ($8.95–$9.45) www.cigarworld.com

LIMITED EDITIONS

Davidoff Golden Band Awards 2012
The motion-picture industry has its Academy Awards—and beginning this year, Davidoff presents its Golden Band Awards. Cast by the same company that produces the Oscar statuettes, the Golden Band trophies are presented to the 8 Davidoff merchants who best exemplify the spirit of the company’s founder, the late Zino Davidoff. The winners also receive an exclusive 6 × 50 Golden Band Toro, which was created especially for these tobacconists to sell; the cigar is unobtainable anywhere else. Featuring all-Dominican tobaccos and a rare Yamasá wrapper, this toro has a smooth, mild flavor that makes it a winner. ($17.90) www.davidoff.com

Davidoff White Edition 2012
With its embossed mother-of-pearl band and equally distinctive 5¾ × 52 robusto gordo shape, this White Edition is the second in that series of full-bodied cigars from Davidoff. Only 8,000 individually numbered, 10-count boxes of this Dominican puro are available worldwide. ($21.50 each/$215 per box) www.davidoff.com

Nestor Miranda Grand Reserve 2012
The elegant blue-and-gold band of this box-pressed cigar encircles an oily Connecticut broadleaf maduro wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. The combination produces a medium-full, semisweet smoke that is a natural accompaniment to a Sazerac 18 Year Old Rye. Only 1,500 boxes of 10 were produced. ($12 each/$120 per box) www.miamicigarandcompany.com

Quesada Oktoberfest
We did not include this limited-edition Dominican Republic puro on our list of holiday recommendations when it was introduced last year because it had sold out by press time. However, thanks to demand, the Quesada Oktoberfest has been reintroduced in three new sizes: the 4 × 50 Kurz ("short"), the 6 × 52 Das Boot ("the boat"—fittingly, a torpedo), and the 6 × 49 box-pressed Kaiser Ludwig. Blended to complement a malty, German-style Märzenbier, this puro also pairs well with single malts, such as the Auchentoshan Three Wood or Glenlivet 15 Year Old. ($7.25–$9.50) www.sagimports.com

Tres Reynas
When Raquel and Patricia Quesada, daughters of noted Dominican Republic cigar maker Manuel Quesada, teamed up with Janny Garcia, the daughter of equally renowned Nicaraguan cigar maker Pepín Garcia, to make a classic cigar like their fathers’ creations, the result was Tres Reynas, or "three queens." With a hefty Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and Nicaraguan filler and binder, this collaboration is available in three sizes: robusto, gordo, and torpedo. Only 1,000 of each were produced. ($7.50–$8.25) www.sagimports.com

Macanudo Vintage 2006
This Connecticut Shade version of last year’s 2006 Vintage Maduro features a rich, golden-hued wrapper from the same spectacular growing season. The embossed metal band on each of the two shapes, a robusto and a toro, further distinguishes this offering from its predecessor. ($8.39–$8.99) www.cigarworld.com

Cohiba Edición Diamante
Enthusiasts who missed last year’s very limited editions sporting 32-year-old Cameroon wrappers now have the opportunity to acquire two new shapes—a robusto, packed in an individual cedar "coffin," and a toro in a crystal tube. Both versions have a little more ligero for a beefier taste and are available in 10-count mahogany boxes. ($22–$25) www.cigarworld.com

Montecristo Epic No. 2
There is a new Montecristo Epic this year, a limited edition from the 2007 crop called the Epic No. 2. Available only in a 6 × 50 size, it is the most intense Montecristo yet. This cigar comes double-banded in a modern red box of 10 that also contains a certificate signed by ;the nine members of the Grupo de Maestros who made the cigars. ($19 each/$190 per box) www.altadisusa.com

POWER POINTS

Regius
Most Nicaraguan cigars are positioned as alternatives to Havanas, which remain illegal in the United States. But the Nicaraguan-made Regius, which premiered in London, competes directly against its Cuban counterparts. Acclaimed by some of London’s top tobacconists—among them J. J. Fox and Sautter’s—this cigar has come to the States. With elegant packaging that befits its regal name, the Regius has a rich Cubanesque flavor and comes in four sizes; the box of 10 4? × 50 robustos makes an excellent host gift. A white-banded Dominican version is coming soon. ($6.45–$8.25) www.sagimports.com, www.regiuscigars.com

Room 101 Daruma
With its Ecuadoran Habano wrapper, Brazilian Matafino binder, and Honduran and Dominican fillers, this full-bodied smoke exudes raw power in the true Daruma tradition. Available in five sizes, including the new 5 × 60 Monstro, this cigar is sure to mitigate any gastronomic complications resulting from that third helping of turkey. ($6.25–$10.25) www.davidoff.com

Padrón 1964 Anniversary No. 4
Though this is not the first 60-ring gauge the Padrón family has produced, it is the first in the company’s Anniversary line of Nicaraguan puros, whose component tobaccos are aged a minimum of four years. No. 4 refers to the December 4 birthday of Saint Barbara, a favorite in Cuba. The larger ring and the cigar’s 6½-inch length intensify Padrón’s characteristically subtle chocolate taste. ($20) www.padron.com

Trinidad Paradox
By far the best cigar to have come out of the Dominican-made Trinidad line, this example offers a new take on the well-known brand. The differences begin with the band, as it takes the famous triple-T logo and chops it into fragments that form a framework for the Trinidad Paradox name, which is printed parallel to the length of the cigar. A San Andres Criollo 98 wrapper, Dominican binder, and Nicaraguan filler combine to create a rich, full-bodied smoke with a complex character. ($6.50–$7.50) www.altadisusa.com

El Diario KB Petite Corona
Last year, La Palina created El Diario, a line of cigars blended to be smoked any time of day. But La Palina jefe Bill Paley asked the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras to make him a few coronas—"because that’s what I like to smoke," he recalls. "But when I lit up the first samples, they hadn’t been aged, and it nearly killed me. Naturally, once it was aged, it became a totally different cigar, and it was great. So I put it in the line." Paley’s coworkers began to jokingly refer to the petite 4¼ × 40 powerhouse as the "Kill Bill," which evolved into the KB, "a Petite Corona with the heart of a Churchill," Paley says. ($8.75) www.lapalinacigars.com

HAPPY MEDIUMS

La Dueña
With a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, a Connecticut broadleaf and Nicaraguan double binder, and a Connecticut broadleaf and Nicaraguan filler, this cigar—blended by Pepín Garcia’s son, Jaime, and Pete Johnson, of Tatuaje fame—should be a powerhouse. Yet just the opposite is true. This medium-strength smoke was made to please the tastes of Janny Garcia, Pepín’s daughter, and it has a flavor reminiscent of a slightly sweet lemon cake. Of the five sizes, our pick is the petit robusto. ($7–$8.75) www.myfathercigars.com

Alec Bradley Nica Puro 1685
As its name clearly implies, this is a Nicaraguan puro, the first in Alec Bradley’s line. The 1685 designation refers to the year when the city of Estelí, where the cigar is made, was founded. Medium strength yet packed with deep, earthy flavors, the blend was perfected in legendary cigar maker Nestor Plasencia’s factory. The six sizes range from a 4¼ × 52 Bahito to a trendy 6 × 60 gordo. ($6.75–$8.50) www.alecbradley.com

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva
Made in Nicaragua by Pepín Garcia, this blend, which is heavier and richer than the standard La Aroma de Cuba, receives extra, mouthwatering spice from a Mexican oscuro wrapper taken from the highest priming on the plant. Four sizes are produced, but we especially like the 5½ × 54 Maximo, paired with a Balvenie 14-year-old Caribbean Cask single malt. ($8.50–$9.95) www.ashtoncigar.com

Burn Naples Florida
This cigar not only was named for Rocky Patel’s popular cigar lounge in Naples, Fla., but also was created to reflect the ambience of that smoke-friendly nightspot. This medium-strength Honduran puro brims with coffee and deep, earthy flavors that channel the sensuous vibe of the club. Of the three available sizes, our preference is the 5 × 50 robusto ($7.75–$8.60) www.rockypatel.com

Rocky Patel Private Cellar
We have always held that certain red wines can be paired successfully with cigars. Rocky Patel feels the same way. This medium- to full-bodied smoke’s Nicaraguan binder and filler and Connecticut broadleaf wrapper evoke nuances of chocolate and espresso that perfectly complement a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or a Super Tuscan. ($8.50–$8.85) www.rockypatel.com

L’Atelier
Pete Johnson is famous for his hip and highly successful Tatuaje line, which taps into the world of high-end Harleys and elaborate tattoos. Now Johnson has shifted to the realm of gin martinis and white dinner jackets with his new L’Atelier line. Its namesake cigar has a slightly more subdued taste than many of the smokes from Tatuaje, yet it still offers plenty of depth cushioned by a wonderfully smooth flavor. The binder and filler are Nicaraguan, but the wrapper is Sancti Spiritus, a new hybrid grown in Ecuador. L’Atelier is made in the My Father Cigars factory in Estelí, and its three sizes (of which the 5? × 54 LAT54 is our favorite) are enticingly reminiscent of Cuba’s pigtailed Cohiba Behike. ($8–$10) www.latelierimports.com

Flor de las Antillas
This second offering from Jaime Garcia—Pepin Garcia’s son and a master blender in his own right—captured our attention with its well-defined, medium-to-full-strength finesse. The Garcia family’s first full-line, box-pressed cigar, this Nicaraguan puro is expertly constructed using a sun-grown wrapper and Cuban-seed filler. The result is a smooth and complex smoke dominated by cinnamon, cocoa, and cedar. Of the four sizes, the belicoso is our preferred choice. ($6.60–$8.70) www.myfathercigars.com

PRIZED PACKAGES

Sometimes one cigar is not enough—especially during this highly social season. Whether given or received, these three special editions are best appreciated by the box, thanks to their packages, which are as individual as the cigars themselves.

The Partagas 160 Limited Edición Elie Bleu Humidor ($4,500, www.cigarworld.com) contains a selection of the extremely rare 1977 Cameroon-wrapped Partagas 160, first introduced in 2006. There are 90 of these cigars encased in each of the 50 special humidors from Elie Bleu, which have been skillfully inlaid with the Partagas logo.

Avo Uvezian may be a vibrant 86 years old, but the cigars that bear his name just turned 25. To celebrate this milestone, the brand has introduced the Avo 25th Anniversary Edition ($400, www.davidoff.com): 25 special 6 × 52 Dominican puro toros housed in a black-lacquered wooden box shaped like a miniature piano—homage to Uvezian’s musical talents. The keyboard slides out to provide storage for matches and a cutter. A short-term humidification system keeps the cigars in perfect pitch throughout the holidays. Only 2,000 piano boxes are available.

Elegant in the manner of Graycliff—the Nassau, Bahamas, resort owned by the cigar-making Garzaroli family—the Graycliff Silver ($550 for a chest of 25, www.graycliffbahamas.com) comes in two sizes: a 6 × 52 Pirate (torpedo) and a 6 × 54 (called “the 54” but actually a toro). Both formats are rolled entubar-style from pre-2007 tobaccos and are slightly stronger than Graycliff’s Château Grand Cru, yet the addition of Filipino tobacco to the filler adds a touch of sweetness to the Silver. The chest containing 25 of these cigars, which have been aged for 10 and a half months, resembles a silver ingot and comes with a certificate of authenticity, as well as a pair of white gloves.

This article was originally published in the December 2012 issue of Robb Report. Click here to read more articles from this issue.

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