La Aurora Serie 107 Aniversario

Posted by on May 1, 2010

This recently released cigar from the Dominican Republic’s oldest producer of cigars hit the stores on April Fools Day. I got mine as a freebie from a local B&M and could barely wait 24 hours to smoke it. Produced in three different sizes (4.5 x 50 Robusto, 5.5 x 54 Toro, and 6.25 x 52 Belicoso), this elegant cigar is slated to quickly become a favorite among discerning smokers.

Appearance: The cover leaf is a well-cured brown, with fine veins, smooth texture, and a suede-like oily sheen. A neat cap is meticulously applied and near seamless.

Pre-light Draw: Once clipped, the 107 reveals an absolutely perfect draw with a distinct sweetness, caramel, and raisin flavors.

First third: Immediately upon torching the foot, a pleasantly sweet aroma fills the air. Initial puffs are full of mild spice- not the “in your face” ligero blast of an Oliva Serie V or a Cain, but a subtle peppery note that will no-doubt appeal to many fans of milder cigars. The smoke is white and ample, billowing easily from the continuing perfect draw. This first part of the cigar reveals an impressive balance of flavor and strength and a razor-sharp burn. Notable flavors include a tea-like Ethiopian coffee character that is very enjoyable.

Second third: Walnut and almond flavors enter the picture in the middle of this smoke. The burn continues to track perfectly producing a very solid medium-gray ash that does not flake. This ash, which denotes the fertile and mineral rich soil that produced this fine cigar, held strong gently falling off at about two inches in length.

Final third: The strength of this smoke increases into its end stages. A very light bitterness began to reveal itself but remained unobtrusively in the background and did not worsen. As the 107 begins to singe thumb and forefinger, some interesting Cognac notes appear.

Overall impression: I will be returning to my local B&M in the very near term to stock up on these beauties. The robusto did not disappoint in any domain and left me anticipating possible new developments in experiencing the other two sizes. This is a very high quality cigar especially considering the relatively inexpensive price-point. Between $6 and $8, depending on size, the 107 grants the experience of a much more expensive cigar. You need to get this into your rotation ASAP as difficulty in stocking these would not be surprising.

-Anejomofo

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Restrictive Measures Proposed for Maryland Tobacconists

Posted by on February 3, 2010

Just read about this on Nice Tight Ash.

A new bill has come up before the Maryland legislature that would greatly harm all of the tobacconists (and by extension, cigarsmokers) in the state. House Bill 88 would, among other things, restrict tobacconists to purchasing cigars solely from in-state distributors. This would increase the wholesale cost of cigars to the retailers, who would be forced to pass the cost onto you, the consumer. Please take action, and tell your representatives to oppose HB88.

This sounds a lot like the tangled web of legislation that keeps wine from being purchased and shipped across some state lines. Because of this, citizens in several states can’t mail-order specialty/limited-run wines that aren’t found in their local retailers. This has to be stopped now for cigars or we’ll have to fight our way back up the mountain.

Update: Here is a link to HB88 details on the Maryland General Assembly website.

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Mean Gene’s Pyramid Scheme

Posted by on September 30, 2009

“But that is called cannibalism, my dear children, and is in fact frowned upon in most societies.” -Willy Wonka

As related in this excellent article on puffingcigars.com, Gene Arganese of Arganese cigars is running a pyramid scheme which preys directly on his most valuable commodity- his customers. From time to time, we’ve all seen various “Cigar of the Month” type deals of dubious distinction. Usually, these types of things amount to little more than an autoship program for overstock cigars. The customer pays a slightly discounted price for a few lackluster cigars and the process is repeated on a monthly basis until he or she absolutely could not stand to see another Rocky Patel Fusion robusto hit the mailbox. Unsteady moral ground is crossed when a contract is involved and the customer is locked into these purchases for a time that exceeds his or her interest.

What Gene has done here crosses the boundaries of taste, morality, the ethic of the cigar smoking community, and infringes upon what many of us view to be an unspoken trust between cigar smokers and cigar producers. Essentially, Gene’s pyramid scheme runs as such: an entrance fee of $89.99 is charged. For this no doubt hard-earned ninety bucks, the victim purchases the ability to purchase a fiver of six dollar cigars for $29.99 monthly. Each year, the entrance fee is exacted again- albeit at the generously discounted price of $59.99. While this is going on, said victim is expected to recruit other “members” for this “club”. If the quota of new recruits is not met, the unfortunate participant in this scheme is booted from the “club”. This arrangement differs slightly from a classic pyramid scheme which typically lacks an actual product. This difference, however, does little to ease the nausea that should arise in the pit of an intelligent cigar smoker’s (my apologies for the redundancy) stomach, as it is a fairly insignificant product that is in question. The real meat of this scheme exists in the multi-level-marketing approach to membership. Perched precariously atop this pyramid is our pal Gene of the likely soon to be defunct Arganese Cigar Company.

During a time in which cigar smokers are virtually pinned in a corner by unfair taxes, undemocratic freedom-restricting legislation, and increasingly hostile public sentiment toward cigars; Gene has decided to prey on the very people who helped to elevate his name from a place of total obscurity to gracing the pages of important industry periodicals. This is no ordinary widget wielding, catalog carrying, pink Cadillac driving pyramid scheme which provides equal opportunity to be taken advantage of across all demographics of the willing population. This scheme is directed toward a group of consumers who place their trust in the manufacturers of their chosen product. We place this trust in cigar companies and other related concerns to use their resources to defend our ability to exercise the freedom to enjoy a cigar. When those resources are instead used to extract money, like blood from a stone, for no other purpose than to pad the pockets of a failed cigar magnate; there can be no other response than to take great offense.

Because personal freedom is necessarily a hallmark of our community, I cannot call for any response other than for that community to come together to remove this type of behavior from our midst. Parasitism will always have its place in the natural order, loathsome as it is. We must respond to this type of leechery in kind. I am advocating a boycott of Arganese cigars until such time as Gene Arganese publicly acknowledges and apologizes for violating the trust of his community with his pyramid scheme. While I suspect that market forces and other economic factors might act to remove this tick from the collective belly of the cigar smoking community before any such boycott makes an impact; I hope to set a precedent that will prevent this type of predation from recurring in the future.

-Anejomofo

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New Tobacco Law is Slippery Slope

Posted by on May 28, 2009

In its ever accellerating campaign to protect American citizens from themselves; the US government is seeking new regulations on shipping tobacco. At this time only cigarettes and “smokeless tobacco” are concerned. You can bet your bottom Opus that cigars are just around the corner.

See this story covered in full at Cigar Weekly.

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Carlito’s Stogie Nubber: Our first co-written review.

Posted by on May 5, 2009

Two verbose snobs for the price of one! Limited time only…

Check out our in-depth review of this indispensable tool of cigar smokery.

StogieNubber.jpg

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Winter Freeze and Spring Pre-Gaming

Posted by on March 19, 2009

“I was here last winter; One of the days I was here it was 3 below zero, no wind chill. A little nippy. It’s kind of fun though in that weather, goin’ outdoors watching smokers pass out, ’cause they don’t know when they’re done exhaling.” -Bill Hicks One Night Stand in Chicago

  Being nestled in the snowy embrace of New England, I have had my outdoor smoking routine severely imposed upon. Whether it be snow, rain, or just being damn cold out, I can’t utilize my private cigar sanctuary in the sky. I know the first response to hearing this would be something on the lines of “Get off your ass and go down to the god-damned smoke shop” and I couldn’t agree with that more and I have several excellent options here Providence RI including B&M’s and bars. I know, I’m lazy, but hey most of those places close down before I’m ready to go out for a good smoke.

  One thing however that has been a shining ray of hope is the ridiculously warm one-off days every now and then. During some of these warm days I’ve been able to break away and really take in the fresh air by lighting up one of the many sticks that I’ve been eye-balling while I wait for spring. Some that have been particularly good on these days are Opus X Power Ranger, CAO Brazilia Amazon, Cruzado Dantes Robusto (new brand from Dion Giolito) and an Anejo No49 (yeah the big one!).

  There is something I wouldn’t mind knowing from you though. Yes, you, the reader. How do you cope with the winter cold taking away your ability to smoke outside and what have you been smoking this winter? Also spring is right around the corner, anything special planned for the “Spring Opener”?

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SCHIP law increases US tobacco taxes in April 2009

Posted by on February 5, 2009

  On February 4th, President Obama signed a bill reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to provide health insurance for children in need. On the surface this doesn’t sound like a bad idea, but lurking in details of how to pay for this new insurance coverage is an increase on tobacco taxes effective April 1, 2009. The new tax for “Large Cigars” is going to be 52.75% of manufacturer’s price with a cap of 40.26 cents. This is a considerable increase from the previous 4.8 cent cap, but this is a lot better than the proposed $3 cap from 2007.

Read more about this:

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A Crash Course in Cigar Tasting

Posted by on January 6, 2009

“It is natural for us to seek a Standard of Taste; a rule, by which the various sentiments of men may be reconciled; at least, a decision, afforded, confirming one sentiment, and condemning another.”- David Hume

  There is, perhaps, nothing more subjective in human experience than taste. Thousands of mysterious evolutionary, cultural, temporal, and psychological factors combine to ultimately produce the experience of what one tastes. Even among individuals who share similarities across these categories; varying opinions concerning the taste of one single item abound. How then, are we as cigar enthusiasts, in light of this well-known idea, to make sense of the various reviews and descriptions we encounter in our search for our ideal cigar?

  The answer lies not in some unequivocal objective reality of taste, but in our ability to recognize characteristics and familiar themes from all of our gustatory experience. Here, in six easy steps, is the Cigars Everyday cigar tasting method. Will the following of this program make your reviews and tasting notes immune to criticism? No. There’s a lot of “haters” out there (to use the parlance of our times). There are smokers and lovers of cigars- veterans of years of enjoyable smoking- who never have, and never will taste flavors so universally agreed upon as coffee in a cigar. Those who enjoy a cigar for what it is, remain open to creative interpretation. Those who do not, will balk at any attempt to compare the smoke of a cigar to a demitasse of espresso or the aroma of leather. We’re not concerned with the latter group. Our journey is one of knowledge and diversity. With this in mind, take in the following six steps to cigar mindfulness. Put into practice, this method is guaranteed to increase your enjoyment not only of cigars, but the entire world of taste and aroma at large.

  1. Brothers and sisters, start smoking. Don’t just stick with the first “favorite” you’ve landed upon. There is an entire world of flavor, texture, and taste to be had in the multitude of cigars available today. To limit oneself to an early favorite does great injustice to the countless hands and minds who’s sweat and blood are shed to produce each different cigar. Perhaps more importantly, you do yourself the injustice of missing the wondrous variety of different experiences available in our time’s incredible selection of fine cigars.
  2. Read everything you can find on wine, scotch, and cigar tasting. Wine-tasting is probably the most abundant category for learning about this sort of thing- and not at all irrelevant to cigars. Wine For Dummies is an entertaining and educational read that contains an excellent treatment on how to use the palate as we seek to use it here.
  3. Read millions of reviews. Pick up some terminology; see what the preponderance of evidence is for certain flavors. Coffee, for instance, is an “easily” found flavor, especially in more full-bodied cigars. Leather, nuts, soil, etc are also commonly found flavors. Be sure to read reviews from all walks of life, not just from the so-called “big boys”. The reviews of independent blogs, newsletters and the anonymous online denizens of message boards not only provide a wealth of information, but also are usually straight-forward and down to earth in their descriptions . If you see one review out of a hundred where the self-appointed aficionado of the universe waxes poetic about “Playful notes of Quince-preserves subtly enveloping a demure saddle-soap finish” (and I had to try very hard not to parallel my own reviews too closely on that one. What was that I said about self-appointed….oh well, nevermind), you can pretty much discount the rest of what he says. Keep it real, keep it close-to-home, and learn.
  4. Pay attention to flavors and aromas from a variety of sources in “real life”. Wine-tasting, as painfully snobbish as it is, is a great way to start training your palate to receive all of the information available to your senses. Get your mind used to analyzing these things. Until you train it, your palate is like an HDTV that only gets basic cable. Once you’ve been really giving your attention to the olfactory input of food, drink, and cigars a new vista of information will be available from them. It’s like beginning to learn a new language. Eventually, a conversation that once would only have registered as total jibberish, begins to reveal its meaning in tiny bits and pieces of understanding. That’s what it’s like when you start to actively smoke cigars.
  5. That being said, realize the limitations of the palate. There are only five basic tastes; from all of their possible combinations and permutations, we humans have come to be able to recognize the flavor of lemons or apples or maple syrup (for instance). What that means is that any given flavor we find in food or drink is some arcane combination of these five tastes. That’s why it’s possible to pick up “Earl Gray Tea and dark-roast coffee” in a cigar. This is a very subjective matter. Someone who has never smoked a cigar before is unlikely to find anything much besides “smoke” and “burning” for a flavor. Therefore, it’s all about combinations of flavors, proclivities of the taster, memory, and conditioning.
  6. There’s no wrong answer. There are snob answers, grandiose answers, unlikely answers, and oversimplifications; but ultimately, there’s no wrong answer. If it tastes like rhubarb tops to you then fine. There is no holy-standard, no ‘theory of everything” in the cigar world. As such, respect must be given to all of those who put voice to the analysis of a cigar. Through thoughtful training of the palate we hope to transform it into a precision instrument, capable of detecting minute hints of familiar flavors in the ephemeral smoke of a fine cigar. But until we all get there, one man’s sea turtle roe may be another man’s rhubarb tops; and there’s nothing wrong with that.


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A Chat With the Man Behind Illusione Cigars

Posted by on December 10, 2008

“It just comes down to trusting your palate and your instincts”- Dion Giolito, Illusione Cigars

  Recent years have seen the rise of the truly independent cigar maker; men who have created fantastic cigars and booming companies from the ground up. These visionaries have been able to accomplish what many of us can merely dream- to tailor a cigar perfectly to one’s own taste. The multitudes who spend their hard-earned time and money in pursuit of these cigars constitute the most irrefutable proof of the talent that went in to their production.
  Blog of the Leaf is proud to present an interview with one of the most prolific and intriguing examples of these Young Turks of the cigar world. Dion Giolito’s Illusione Cigars immediately created a well-deserved buzz when they began to appear in Brick and Mortar cigar shops across the country. With their dark, satiny wrappers and thought-provoking imagery; Illusione cigars look fantastic. But the real story is in the smoke. Light up a Magdala and experience the sophisticated power of Dion’s blending genius. Put flame to The Holy Lance and take in the richness and complexity of Illusione’s choice Nicaraguan wrapper. Each different shape provides a unique smoking experience while remaining ever true to Dion’s vision. Fire up your favorite Illusione and enjoy a brief window into the philosophy of a truly great cigar maker.

Anejomofo: What characteristics of Nicaraguan tobacco made it the right choice for the cigar you sought to create?

Dion Giolito: I’ve always been fond of Nicaraguan tobacco. It’s the taste profile that most suits my palate over all other countries. It’s bold, bright, clean, no bullshit flavor.

AM: What flavors and qualities would you like to develop further in your cigars?

DG: That’s a difficult one. I’ve already achieved everything I really wanted to in Illusione with regards to those two points. From here on out, it’s more of a “style” aspect that I would approach future blends.

AM: Do you have any plans to release Illusiones with a variety of different wrappers?

DG: There’s already one with a different cover leaf which is the e c c j. It’s the cigar I made for European Cigar Cult Journal’s 15 year anniversary. The blend was tempered to compliment the cover leaf and to be more receptive to the European palate. The cover leaf is Corojo, café Rosado/Rosado claro and comes from a different farm than the wrapper that’s on Illusione.

AM: The last decade or so has seen a rise in upstart, premium cigar brands. A sort of “cult of personality” now exists as the likes of Pete Johnson and Don Pepin Garcia become known as much for their charisma as their cigars. Where do you and your cigars fit in to this trend?

DG: I think that certain publications like to play up that sort of thing to create a personality of sorts to befit the cigar. It’s been done with Avo, Rocky, Zino, Paul Garmirian etc. I just think it kind of goes hand in hand with many types of a business marketing approach, not just cigars.

AM: What is your favorite part of the cigar-making process?

DG: Actually getting out to the aging barns and going through the giant stacks/hands of tobacco called pilones. It’s where you can really get specific about which components are suitable for production. We go from pile to pile and just roll up little cigars to sample each component i.e. viso, seco , ligero etc. I’m extremely fortunate as a brand owner to be involved at this level of selection. It is also where you can literally select the best of the best before anyone else has a chance to review it before it goes to Pre industirias for sale. Pre industrias are like a market place for tobacco where factories and buyers go to get leaf.

AM: What role do you play in the blending of your cigars?

DG: They’re my blends 100%. In the past, I’ve usually started with one specific component to build the blend around that flavor or taste profile. Along with the factory owner, the leaf man, the farmer and a trusted friend, we sit and validate various creations, take notes etc. Sometimes they agree with me, sometimes they don’t.. It just comes down to trusting your palate and your instincts – that’s the biggest part of the whole process.

AM: Aside from the Magdala, your cigars rarely stray beyond the traditional 52 ring gauge of the most hallowed Habanos. Can you comment about how you arrived at the gauge and length of your cigars? What are your feelings about the (now declining) trend toward very large ring gauge cigars?

DG: I’m all for the 54 + ring sizes to go away. I’m not a big fan. Society as a whole is also dictating the movement as well – less time to smoke, fewer places to enjoy a cigar, bans etc. I do enjoy a Churchill or a DC when time permits. There is a time and a place I believe for every size of cigar, maybe yeah, the friggin’ 6 x 60’s as well but, not for me. I like traditional sizes. The wheel didn’t need to be re-invented in this case. I think that the perfect vehicle for flavor lies between a 42 and a 46 ring.

AM: What inspired you to include a lancero size in your lineup?

DG: I had requests for both a lancero and a 6 x 60ish cigar. The choice was obvious. Besides, on a whim, I had the factory make some cigars that were a 6 x 56 just to goof on them. I hated them and hated the way the tobacco performed in that ring gauge.

AM: Where do you see your brand in 10 years?

DG: That’s for Congress to decide. I don’t believe that I truly have control over my destiny with regards to tobacco at this point.

AM: As demand for your cigars increases, what changes are made in their production?

DG: Not a single thing. First off, I can only make what the factory is capable of making me. Secondly, I’m bound to the blend. If someone comes to me and says that they can triple my sales (and they have) I tell them that it’s much more important to me to keep the integrity of the blend. Being in the retail business for almost 20 years, I’ve seen brands like mine come and go. I’ve also seen them morph into something that is completely different than the original incarnation. Screw that – my cigars are what they are and, believe me, it’s a struggle uphill every freakin’ day to keep the integrity and the consistency to my satisfaction.

AM: Is there a maximum number of cigars-per-year you believe is possible to produce while still maintaining fidelity to the quality of the small-production ideal?

DG: That really depends on the availability of the raw materials in any given year. Speaking for myself, I’d say anywhere between 500-750k cigars isn’t a stretch by any means. As for someone like Henke Kellner of Davidoff, he can literally do millions of cigars with little to no issue. The guy is a God.

AM: Aside from Illusione, what are some of your favorite cigars?

DG: Anything Vegas Robaina. I like Pete Johnson’s Tatuaje Brown Cazadores, Davidoff Gran Cru series, LFD, Ashton VSG’s, Henry Clay, Punch Rothchild double maduros. Hell, there’s really not much I’d turn my nose up at.

AM: Are there any surprises on the radar from Illusione cigars?

DG: Well, If I told you then it wouldn’t be a surprise now would it?!

AM: Finally, can you tell us a little bit about your new line of cigars?

DG: My newest line is called Cruzado. Whereas illusione is a Corojo blend with one component of Criollo, Cruzado is a Criollo blend with one component of Corojo. Illusione exhibits an earthy sweetness in the olfactory sense. The profile of Cruzado is more forward on the palate with leather and spice.

  We’d like to thank Dion for his candid and thorough responses. For more information on Illusion cigars please visit the official Illusione website. Stay tuned for more news and interviews with the people that make this lifestyle possible.

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As the Dog Walks

Posted by on November 23, 2008

  Check out the latest installment of Mike_Everyday’s tireless search for the perfect Dog Walker. Do us a favor and get in there with some comments.

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