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Diplomaticos No. 2 ………..2007

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This past Christmas proved to be great for the humidor.  Your peers, for the most part, will see you as their dear friend who is usually smoking and situated downwind,  inevitably missing out on all of the significant events occurring in their general vicinity.  I’m often very happy downwind from the crowd and think as they may, I DO know one thing and that is, sometimes as often as twice a year they all know that I’m real easy to shop for.  The picture above is a quick shot of a great Christmas gift, a Diplomaticos No 2 from 2007,  the month I’m not aware of but since we’re now looking at a cigar that is going on 6 years of age the month didn’t mean too much to me.

As you probably already know, the Diplomaticos brand was introduced in 1966 as a more affordable option to the Montecristo line in the French market.  The two brands had cigars that were identical in size, both numerically named from 0ne to five and both rolled at the Jose Marti factory.  Any suspicions that the two lines may be similar in flavor and you’d be on to something, although I believe that Montecristo has considerably bolder flavors but there are similarities.  Needless to say, its great to witness what was initially intended to be a secondary line become a respected brand and offer a high quality handmade Cuban cigar to any enthusiast.

The No 2 in the picture was a finely constructed piramides, it was clear that it had been aged properly and after the head was clipped the pre-light draw tasted of hay and tea.  After smoking this cigar for at least a third, I found that there was a predominate taste of cedar throughout but as the eventual bean flavors appeared, they came in with a certain boldness that really did remind me of the Montecristo profile.  The biggest difference was that the Diplomaticos was a bit milder but in no way anything below a medium strength cigar.  I have another of these and will probably give it another year in the humidor, I’m sure it’ll only become a finer cigar.

Sadly the Diplomaticos line is quickly disappearing, only the No 2 is in current production and no one is sure how long this final size will continue to be available, this is one cigar you want to have in your humidor.  If you have the ability to also purchase any of these cigars other than the No 2 I would highly recommend you to stock up.  They’re affordable today and will be valued collector’s items in the near future.

‘Tis The Season To Place An Order

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At the end of November, those of us who are pretty good at getting Christmas shopping under way usually start giving the holiday season some thought and for the cigar lovers in our life, it couldn’t be a better time of year.  NOW is the time to order.  I know many lovers of Cuban cigars who open their Christmas gifts on an annual basis and receive wonderful boxes of Cubans which get stashed away in humidors and smoked through the year, love this time of year.  Whats not to love??   I’m thinking that the first brand to Consider would be Cohiba, and why not, Cohiba cigars are made with the finest tobacco leaves Cuba has to offer and the care in construction is second to none.

For those who are very special in your life, you may want to order something from the Behike line, some of Cohiba’s newest vitolas which come in ring gauges of 52, 54 and 56.  These cigars, which were launched in 2010, became the buzz with smokers world wide and then smoke shops had a lot of difficulty keeping them in stock.  The dust has settled, production is consistent and now more and more cigar smokers can tell you tales of their “first Behike” with great adoration.

Partagas, a Cuban cigar brand established in 1845 is one of the world’s most popular Cuban cigar choices with many cigars in all sizes.  Speak to anyone who smokes Partagas and they’ll tell you that, although they love Cuban tobacco, they’ll opt for this brand every time.  If you know someone who wants a special occasion cigar, order a few Partagas Lusitanias, rich rich tobacco flavor with notes of wonderful dark chocolate, cedar and espresso which pairs up beautifully with Rum, a single malt Scotch or an after dinner Cappuccino.

Montecristo, yet another old Cuban brand, has a reputation as being one of the classic Cuban cigar choices for Aficionados who love a full flavored cigar any time of day.  Consider ordering the Montecristo No. 4, arguably the world’s most popular cigar for someone who only has an hour or under of smoking time or maybe the Montecristo No. 2, a torpedo shaped masterpiece which is the standard in the Montecristo brand.

Romeo y Julieta, named after Shakespeare’s love story is another great choice to give at Christmas.  The Romeo Churchill could very well be the cigar that smokers think of first when that brand is mentioned.  An incredible complex and easy to smoke cigar that has become very consistent in years past.  Strict attention is spent on construction and those who love these longer cigars always have them in stock.  As you age this cigar you get rewarded with wonderful flavors of cedar and coffee.

With so many choices to consider when ordering loved ones Cuban cigars, read through the different brand descriptions here in the Vancouver Cigar Company’s site and pick for yourself what you believe may be right for you and the cigar smoker in your life.

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Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill

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There’s something about the Romeo y Julieta Flavor profile that is so consistent, you really CAN count on that flavor to be there whenever you light one up.  Today’s picture was taken this past September on a golf course called Dakota Dunes just outside of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  Initially I thought that I’d choose another picture because the condition of my golf glove but the cigar was so good that I felt that there was no way I wouldn’t include it in today’s entry.   Tom and Sid were my golfing buddies that day, the wind was howling, making the game a bit interesting and the cigars burned very unevenly but the taste was incredible.  Lets get back to the Romeo profile with this incredible cigar. Spice, leather and cedar to start and then the flavor evolution begins into the first third.

As I started writing this today I actually went to the humidor and lit one of these Short Churchills, about 1/2 an inch has burned so far and the cigar is settling in nicely.  Slight draw resistance, which I believe is perfect, and pre-light draw was giving me notes of black tea and wild hay.  I seem to be tasting a bit of tea in the first few puffs, that is also part of the Romeo taste in that the tobacco blend contains Cuban tobacco leaves which will give you quite an herbal experience. With just under an inch of this cigar gone and the ash holding firmly I’m getting a sweet musky taste.  THIS is what separates Cuban cigars from Non-Cubans, it’s muskiness.  It is also the most identifiable characteristic in Cuban tobacco.

At 4.78 inches long and a ring gauge of 50, we’re almost looking at a Robustos but that small amount of length will prevent us from labeling it with that classification.  I gotta say though, it sure feels the same, its the 50 ring gauge that gives you that sensation.  Still in my first third and sweet coffee is now making an appearance with a musky leather finish.  With the white ash holding firmly, I set this short Churchill down in the ashtray and marvel at the way organic Cuban tobacco leaves can give us such a ride.

Second third gone and pepper now appears with dark wood notes coming into the picture, no harshness, every puff being smooth as silk.  This is a world class cigar, I mean I love the Romeo y Julieta Churchill and I’ve smoked hundreds of them but for a shorter format this Short Churchill is one of the great cigars that Cuba puts out today.

Partagas Serie P No.2

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When deciding which Cuban cigars to buy, there are a lot of factors that should be considered.  I try to keep my humidors balanced with cigars that I smoke at different times of the day so I try to stock up on many cigars with different strengths, varied flavors and of course I stop in at “Cigar Aficionado” to see how they’ve rated last year’s top 25 cigars ( this cigar earned their # 4 spot for 2011 ).  The cigar in the above picture is a Partagas Serie P No.2 that was purchased in the spring at The Vancouver Cigar Company.  The box code was OGA Nov 11, so this was a younger cigar that had been sitting in the humidor for about 5 or 6 months.  It seemed like a good enough time as any to light the first one so on a road trip with a buddy, I clipped the cap, torched the foot and let the games begin.

In my humble opinion, the biggest taste difference between Cuban and Non-Cuban is muskiness.  Non-Cubans that I’ve smoked seem to taste a bit sharper and can come at you with a Katana edge of attitude and relentlessness that keeps you wondering if you should install a gentle steam machine in the corner of your man cave you can hang your head in front of which will help you curtail the burning sensation in your sinuses as you smoke these lower priced alternatives.  There are so many theories concerning the reasons why Cubans seem to be easier to enjoy and are have a softer and more gentle greeting to the senses but we’ve gone through this before and certainly a topic that could take paragraphs to cover.

The reason why I felt it was necessary to mention the comparison between Cubans and Non-Cubans was because as soon as I started smoking this Partagas, I was met with some of the sweetest Cuban tobacco smoke I can remember.  From time to time I’ve smoked P 2’s that thrilled me with their balance and variance of flavor that left me wondering why they don’t get an annual number 1 rating, but this cigar rolled at the end of last year, still needed some time to ferment and come into it’s own.  It didn’t make for an unpleasant experience, I feel that learning how a cigar can taste as it travels through it’s journey from young to vintage can only help us to get to know more about the complexities of tobacco’s fermentation in a humidor.  Ain’t life grand!

Instead of the usual white pepper that I often taste with this Piramides, I was met with a soft earthiness and sweet toasted tobacco that was accentuated with cedars and cream for the majority of the cigar.  Evolution of flavors were more subtle from third to third, which I attributed to the cigar’s youth.  One, which is more mature, will give you the roller coaster of flavors we all love in a quality Cuban such as this but even as I smoked this cigar at the beginning of the day, I found that I had made the right choice when pairing it with coffee, cream and sugar as we drove down the road.

Cohiba 1966

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Turn the clock back to July 28 of this year and you’ll experience the night I smoked this cigar and took this picture.  Since time travel isn’t yet an everyday practice on our planet, you’ll have difficulty achieving that little trick so you’ll simply have to take my word for it.  Oh yeah, it was the night of my birthday, that’s why I remember that night so vividly and this cigar I was smoking.

Make sure you have a few hours to commit to the enjoyment of this 6.6 inch, 52 ring gauge Canonazo Especial ( factory Name ), since it will take at least that long to smoke it from start to finger burning finish.  The construction was impeccable, draw had a slight resist and the wrapper was dark and slightly oily, I knew I was in for a rich experience.

First few puffs were shockingly strong and I knew I would have to wait until the cigar burned for at least half an inch before it would settle down to reveal it’s first third’s flavors.  You will not be seeing the flavor profile of Cohiba’s classic series, what is absent is the Cohiba grassiness and herbal qualities.  Instead you will be hit full on with dark dark chocolate, strong coffee and no shortage of woods as you move into the second third.  Even at a year old, I expected to see a complex evolution of flavors as the cigar burned but a relative sameness from third to third told me that this was a fine cigar but still young and in need of another year to settle down.

Something tells me that, like the 2004 Cohiba Sublime, this Edicion Limitada will come to achieve legendary status with Aficionados around the world.  The Sublime is now almost priceless, as rare as it gets and I see no need to assume that the Cohiba 1966 won’t have the same kind of future.

Por Larranaga Panetelas

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To say that I was shocked about the flavor of this smallish cigar would be an understatement, but this short filler Panetelas from Por Larranaga has been, and is continuing to be, a beautiful cigar experience.  Smaller than a Mareva, this Veguereto ( factory name ), measures in at 5 inches long and with a ring gauge of 37.  I’m usually one who goes to the humidor and reaches for a larger ring gauge cigar, simply for the complexity, but I’m finding this cigar to be a lot more complex than I had anticipated.

First third revealed leather and cedar notes but there was something nutty about the flavor profile.  Second third, which I am almost finished as I type this, brought in full on hazel nut mixed with pure honey.  WOW !! I love surprises like this.  I believe that this cigar was completely hand rolled in Feb of 2010 and can’t help but wonder what a few more years of age will do to the performance of this beauty.  I thought that the fact that this is a short filler would give me a very flaky ash but it is holding firmly for over an inch long.  The draw DOES offer a bit of resistance but I’m getting clouds of sweet creamy smoke and any unevenness in the burn, when left alone, seems to auto-correct and carry on quite evenly.

Another thing that I like about this little winner is the price.  $7.42 CDN is a steal for something that offers almost an hour of prime smoking but I AM a slow smoker, I love a cool flame.  The longer I wait between puffs, the creamier and sweeter this cigar gets.

I believe that I have just found my new favorite small ring gauge cigar.  Perfect medium body cigar to have in the morning with coffee, not overpowering or too bold to smoke so early in the day.

Order a box, they are difficult to obtain but if you are lucky enough to buy some of these you’ll be taken on a journey that will blow you away!!!!!

Cuban Cigars to Look Forward To…

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The new year brings so much promise with all of the releases we’ve been seeing lately.  I, for one can’t wait to get my hands on some of the shorter cigars that are now available.  One that really catches my interest is the new H. Upmann in the Half Corona.  3 1/2 inches and a 44 ring gauge.  The price will be great for the quality we’ll be getting, if you have a chance to order a box do it!! The Cohiba 1966, last year’s release is getting rave reviews and no one is disappointed with construction and flavor quality.

The larger ring gauge Montecristo Grand Edmundo Edicion Limitada 2010 is still available and with almost 2 years of aging is now smoking like a dream.  Although the movement is towards shorter cigars, this Canonazo is very popular with experienced Cuban cigar lovers with it’s powerful blend of tobacco which reveals very dark chocolate and coffees.

Hoyo de Monterrey’s Short Piramides Edicion Limitada for 2011 is a bit milder and sweeter with a 5.3 inch, 46 ring gauge, factory name “Forum”.  This cigar will still reward a patient smoker with close to an hour and a half of leathers and flavorful cedars in a cigar the same size as the Montecristo Regata.   This figurado will come in boxes of 10, which is another new sales formula Cuba is giving us.  I like the option of buying a box of 10 cigars, you can mix things up a bit and stock your humidor with a few different brands.

The picture above is a H. Upmann No 2, a cigar that’s been with us for a few years now, the one in the picture still proudly bears the older style band.  With all of the new cigars coming on to the market I still have a hard time turning my back on the cigars that I’ve been smoking this past couple of years and this Upmann will ALWAYS be in my humidor.

Bolivar Royal Coronas

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Well since we’re on the topic of Salmon fishing in the Vancouver area, I may as well continue on… The above picture shows that as I was tying a, still to be sculpted,  muddler minnow with a brass cone head to help the fly scream towards the bottom of the river where the fish like to stack up this time of year.  Yesterday, once again was Coho day ( Silvers for our American readers ), and I’m glad I stayed up a bit late the night before tying flies.  Coho like to be a bit aggressive and territorial so when one of these flies enters the fish’s neighborhood, they come out and attack.  This is the part of the day when your heart starts beating wildly.

Well, long story short, I caught them, bonked them, cleaned them, brought them home, filleted them and had a great meal with a lot of fresh fish left over to give friends and family.  OK, lets forget about the fish and address the picture for a minute and discuss the amazing cigar I lit up at around 9:30 that night.

Last summer I went to “The Vancouver Cigar Company” and picked up a few cigars from Trevor.  I’m not exactly sure what I selected that day since it WAS over a year ago but I DO remember getting a few Bolivar Royal Coronas.  For some reason I decided to leave one in the humidor and the other night I decided it was time to light it up.  I’m guessing that the Robusto was as least 3 years old and the time had come to taste one of my favorite cigars again.

After clipping off the cap, I found that the draw was perfect with a lot of air flow going through the cigar.  A bit of a tea and a dusty grassy flavor was revealed in the pre-light draw.  A bit of spice was present in the first few puffs but I knew this cigar would settle down once it burned for a few minutes.  I wasn’t disappointed in the least when it started to mellow and reveal the Bolivar flavors of cedar and coffee that I was expecting.  This particular 50 ring gauge, 4.8 inch Robusto was considerably more balanced than a lot of RC’s I’ve smoked in the past which is, I’m sure, because of the time I took letting it rest and mature.

I think my favorite age for cigars is the magic 3 year period.  I know that the tobacco matures for a few years before the cigars are rolled and after 3 more years in a humidor you get all those great flavors without the ammonia which we taste in a young cigar.  I’ve been looking under boxes in cigar stores lately for a purchase that has a touch of maturity and in the future I’ll be speaking more of this 3 year concept of mine.

Cuban Cigars And Coho Salmon

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Yesterday was a day spent out in the Fraser Valley standing beside the Dewdney slough and it’s tributaries, the Coho salmon are pouring in and happy fishermen were everywhere.  The day was sunny but there was a bit of a cold wind and I knew that as I got all of my fishing gear together so I felt that there was no need to show up with a Behike just to see it get abused by wind.  The Quintero Breva in the picture was all I needed to keep my happy at the end of the day, when this picture was taken, but I would have been happier if I would have noticed the cigar ash on the fish.

We live in a fishing dream in Vancouver since there are opportunities for catching Salmon 12 months a year in our rivers.  What still has me surprised is the fact that there are times when I’m the only one out on the banks of  a river that is located only a few miles out of the city.  I’m not complaining but I feel that if people knew how easy and affordable it is to catch and eat these great fish, a lot more people would be doing it.  No matter, I have a few very close friends that join me and go out many times a year.. We have great days together..

This is Doug…

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As you can see, this fish has an adipose fin close to the tail so this means that this “wild” Coho has to be released.  Young salmon smolts, raised in hatcheries will often have this fin removed which makes them easy to identify when they are adults.  This fish was caught on the fly, using a rolled Muddler Minnow.  There’s nothing like the excitement that can be gotten by hooking into a nice sized salmon with a fly rod,  Doug and I have been doing this for years.

Juan Lopez Seleccion No. 2

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So the first thing you may notice about the picture above is that we were shooting from the blues when playing golf at Stuart Creek this summer in Alberta.  A beautiful golf course situated in the mountains near Banff Alberta and some of the lowest scorecards I’ve seen us mark all year, which probably had to do with the wine we were drinking the night before.  The second thing you may notice in the above picture is that there is an un-banded Robusto proudly perched and burning with a nice grey ash.

There was a bit of a mystery surrounding this cigar when I bought the box last summer since I was told that the cigars, I picked up from a friend, were in a Juan Lopez Seleccion No. 2 SLB but were un-banded.  Here is where it gets a bit sketchy because Juan Lopez started putting bands on the Selecction No 2 in 2005 and its been that way ever since.  What I didn’t know was the age of the cigars I bought until last night when I phoned my buddy to find out that they are from 2003, he simply didn’t put them in the right box when he decided to sell them to me.  I found this news to be very exciting.

I found something else very interesting about these cigars and it reminds me about something Aaron, the owner of “The Vancouver Cigar Company”, told me last year when he said that he likes smoking cigars that sit in a humidor with a little less humidity than 71, where I like to keep mine.  He said that he finds that smoking cigars that are in a humidor around 66 to 69 to have a very nice effect on their flavor.  Interestingly enough, I’ve been smoking these Juan Lopez cigars from a humidor that usually sits at around 68 and I’ve noticed that the flavor is quite exceptional.

The more damp these cigars are, the more bitter they taste and I was beginning to become quite frustrated with these aged Robustos.  I actually discovered this by accident and then I started doing more reading online about a humidor’s humidity levels and it’s effect on the cigars it holds.  Sure enough, I’ve found that too much moisture will cause the cigar to burn hotter, or at least feel that way, and the taste is altered in a negative way.  Right now as I type away, I have one of these Robustos burning and the flavors are rich and dry, like a dry wine.  The complexity and the evolution of this Seleccion No 2 is giving me a number of different flavors from cedar to a dark coffee and, from time to time, a small amount of Cinnamon.

When young, the Juan Lopez will give you enough strength to consider this to be an after dinner cigar paired with a single malt or Cognac but as it ages, you may want to consider simply water to keep your palate clean and rinsed to taste the subtle flavor notes available in this great Robusto.