‘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.

Cohiba Behike 56

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Cohiba’s release of the Behike line last year was easily the most anticipated event for ANYONE who has ever tasted and loved cigars from Cuba.  The 52, which is a sweet and balanced cigar, thrilled the powers that be in Cigar Aficionado, enough so to see them vote it the cigar of the year in 2010.  I loved that cigar when I first tried it and believe that it must have been a very difficult task when they have so many cigars to choose from.

The Cohiba Behike 54 had a more powerful approach than the 52 with it’s complex profile of milk chocolates and coffees but still had something subtle about it that made me wonder about the Medio Tiempo leaf used in it’s filler and exactly what it does to the taste.  The medio tiempo leaf which appears, sporadically, was used up until the early 1960’s in regular Cuban cigar production but hasn’t been seen until this new Cohiba line was introduced.  I would love to A/B the same cigar first WITH the leaf and then WITHOUT.. That would be a fantastic test to participate in some day…

Yesterday was my first experience with the Behike 56 and it was a whole different ball game compared to the two smaller sizes.  First of all the sheer size of the cigar is impressive, with its big ring gauge, and flawless construction.  A gorgeous caramel wrapper that had a slight oily sheen had me feeling that this was going to be an event to remember for months to come.  The pre-light draw had flavors of hay and moist earth with a slight barnyard taste.. It was time to reach for the matches.

This cigar’s size introduces a whole new way to smoke a cigar.  More air is needed to move through more tobacco and so the amount of suction required to keep the flame even is maybe more suited to someone with more size.  It is a large man’s cigar, plain and simple.  Nothing wrong with that, there are many men with dimensions that are quite suited to a stogie of this size.  I say, go for it!!

The first few puffs were mild but I could tell that the sweetness I remember from the Behike 52 and 54 were present, so there were some fine flavors of the other two cigars coming through right from the start.  It didn’t take long to see the complexity that so many people speak about when they review this cigar, the first third’s profile revealed, hay, sweet milk chocolate, slight amounts of cedar and sweet creamy coffee.  It was a great complex cigar that revealed balance and building strength.

behike-bluegold

This cigar was smoked during a drive from Banff, Alberta to Vancouver.. We had hours to spend in the car as we gleefully drove down the road, smoking many Cuban cigars.  More reviews will follow this post.

The Behike 56’s second third built in strength and showed the flavors changing, in a subtle manner, from sweet coffees and chocolates to a more intense experience that revealed darker and richer chocolate with stronger hay notes and more wood.  This is a roller-coaster cigar in that it will give you more than most Cuban cigars are capable of, it simply has more tobacco rolled in it’s filler, the finest wrapper that Cuba has to offer and an approach to a cigar’s blend that stands alone in the Cuban cigar industry.

The final third was enjoyable and powerful but the nicotine tingling on my lips told me that this is still a young cigar that needs more time to age and settle down.  Does that mean that I’m recommending that you don’t smoke it yet?  No, not at all !  To experience ALL that a cigar has to offer is what I believe we’re all after with this passion and the Cohiba 56 should be smoked and enjoyed at every stage of it’s life !

Cohiba Behike 56

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The most anticipated cigar to come out of Cuba in a great many years is in the Behike line from Cohiba, last year was the first year that these beauties were available to cigar aficionados and because of the great demand, they were a bit hard to get a hold of.  The cigars come in three sizes; the Behike 52 (ring gauge ), which won Cigar Aficionado’s cigar of the year, the Behike 54 which was a bit more robust and had an impressive full bodied taste, and finally pictured above the Behike 56.

I have tasted the first two mentioned and every word printed about the smaller of the three was true and then some.  The Behike 52 had a sweet, medium strength profile that had me mesmerized from first puff to the last finger burning draw that impressed me so much.  I was glad that the 52 got all of the recognition that it received because it was one of the best cigars I had ever smoked.  I was able to experience the Behike 54  last September on a drive to Edmonton with a good friend and we passed it back and forth as we tried to identify all of the rich flavors present in it’s profile. The 54 gave a different performance than the 52 in that it had a bit more punch and darker chocolate flavors were definitely present.

I was gifted this Behike 56 in the picture a week ago and I’m not sure exactly when I will be lighting it up.  I was with my friend, Tom, for the first 2 Behikes we tried and I can’t leave him out for the final in the trilogy.  We’re planning a golf trip to Ontario next week and I’m thinking that it will be the perfect time to let this one show us what its made of.  The Medio Tiempo leaves that sometimes appear at the top of the tobacco plant are rolled into the filler of these three cigars which was the selling point that, in a way, justified the price of these cigars.  These upper leaves are somewhat rare so these cigars sell at a bit of a premium.  If you believe that the inclusion of these leaves are the only reason for the price, you would be mistaken since the care taken when constructing these cigars is very high and the look of these cigars will tell you that probably only the best rollers get the chance to assemble these gems.

The Vancouver Cigar Company has been able to get these three cigars since they were introduced and Trevor will be able to help you choose which one would be best for your taste.  My humble opinion would be……. Try all three !

My Top 10 Cuban Cigars In 2010

Different people have different tastes in cigars and many people will wonder why their favorite Cuban was left out but I want to begin by saying that this compilation of cigars was made up from some memorable moments I had smoking, what I believe, are the finest cigars in the world.  Some of these cigars were produced in years before 2010 but were the ones I smoked last year……

1… Ramon Allones Phoenicio ……  Well we may as well start off with one that will ruffle a feather or two concerning the release date but on July 28, 2010 I finally lit one up and all of my anticipation and patience paid off in spades…. Flavors of gingerbread, mild milk chocolate and very subtle hints of nutmeg kept swirling around my palate during the 2/12 hours it took to smoke this 54 ring gauge, 5 1/2 inch masterpiece…. Very difficult cigar to find these days, when originally released in 2008 they were only available at the Beirut duty free stores…..

2…  Cohiba Behike 52…… Now I’m struggling with myself as to whether or not put this into the number one spot because of it’s wonderful taste but I still maintain that the Phoenicio WAS that good!!!!  The Behike 52 was in a class by itself from start to finish and maybe because I was smoking it while on holidays without a care in the world, it tasted a bit better…. I’m not sure….. But….  There was something brand new about this beautiful cigar from Cohiba.. Totally unique and fantastic even at such a young age….

3…   H. Upmann Magnum 48…  Oh oh, here we go again with a cigar that did NOT come out in 2010 ( 2009 actually ) but where this cigar was sweet and fruity in it’s first year of life, the second year revealed a more classic beauty of medium to strong coffee and dark chocolate flavors that were very elegant… I really need to find more of these….

4…   Cohiba Robusto…..  Still a very steady contender in the top 10 of anyone who appreciates a good Cuban.. I’ve never had one with any kind of burn or draw issues and the grassy, spicy flavors are something I can count on whenever remove one from my humidor..

5… Cohiba Piramides EL 2006…. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.. Trevor at “The Vancouver Cigar Company” still has some of these in stock and if you like classic Cohiba perfection, you may want to get in touch with him.  This torpedo lives up to the reputation that the 2001 had and the more reviews I read, the more I see that smokers prefer the 2006.  It seems to take all of the greatest features of the Esplendidos and Cohiba Robusto and combines them all into one exceptional cigar…  They get better and better every year they age in the humidor.

6…   El Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme…  This is a very unique tasting Hermoso No. 4 that is easy on the wallet and even easier on the palate because of the cinnamon, slightly spicy flavors.  My box is from Dec ’08 and with every one I light I see a great improvement as months go by..  Is it a classic Cuban?? No, not really… It can’t be compared to a Monte No. 2 or Cohiba or Partagas but should be experienced and appreciated as a staple in the niche market… You could call it a cult cigar from Cuba… Those who love it seem to stand by it and are very loyal to the brand.

7…  H. Upmann No. 2…  I still have a few left from a box from ’07 and although I’ve smoked a few younger ones recently I’ve seen that their consistency is incredibly remarkable..  Fantastic flavors of leather, coffee and cedar that get smoother with age.  I feel that I should mention the Montecristo No. 2 as well here…. Still a great cigar with classic beauty but hey…. I love the Upmann !

8…  Partagas Serie D No. 5 LE 2008…  This cigar did NOT get great reviews when it came out in ’08 and so I left it alone and smoked my usual Serie D No 4’s and Lusitanias when I wanted a Partagas but last year I was given a few of these and was shocked as to how good it was.. Sweet, fruity, milk chocolate flavors with the Partagas profile coming through made me wonder what all the bad press was all about.. This is a great cigar that is well made and coming into it’s own.

9…   Bolivar Royal Coronas…   Now this is one of Cuba’s most consistent Robustos.. Very earthy and comforting to smoke on any occasion, whether it be after a full meal of large flavors or on the golf cart after a hot dog as you’re starting the back 9.  I smoked many in 2010 and it NEVER let me down..

10…   Diplomaticos No. 2…    You may wonder why I’ve included this cigar instead of the Montecristo No. 2 and you’d have a valid question but I feel that I have to include this great Piramide because of the lighter profile it has to offer that is a totally perfect cigar to smoke on the boat in the morning.  I couldn’t think of a better morning cigar because of it’s gentle approach and couldn’t think of a better cigar to offer the novice or seasoned aficionado.

Well there you go….. I know I’ve left out the Trinidads, HDM’s and Romeos….  But….. This is my list and next year is a whole new year!

A Little Bit About Blend

With different edition cigars coming out of Cuba every year, the people who produce these gems are always introducing different blends into the cigar filler which in turn keep us interested in all that is developing in this wonderful passion we all share.  I’m thinking that it must be quite a challenge given the fact that there are NO chemicals used in the production of Cuban cigars and NO additives that give them their incredible flavor.  So how do they differ from cigar to cigar?

A few different factors are taken into consideration when designing a cigar’s flavor.. Well come to think of it, a whole number of factors have to be taken into consideration..

First of all I’m guessing that the quality of leaves in a particular harvest would be something to consider and you have to remember that Cohiba gets the FIRST pick of the harvest which tells you that there is no wonder why Cohiba cigars have, what most aficionados maintain, the best and most complex flavors available.  They cost a pretty penny for a reason, they ARE the finest! But we were talking about the blend, so I’ll continue….

The filler in a cigar is made up from, almost always, 3 different parts of the tobacco plant, the Ligero, the seco and the volado..  The ligero comes from the top of the tobacco plant and these leaves get the most sunshine which in turn makes them a bit darker, stronger tasting because of more concentrated minerals including nicotine and slower to burn.. This is why when you examine the foot of a cigar you can sometimes detect darker leaves rolled into the middle.. When you knock the ash off you can also see a cone shaped red cigar ember burning, that tells you that the cigar was rolled properly and the ligero is where it should be.. Another thing that I want to qualify at this point is that you may not actually taste the ligero if it is a young cigar but you will certainly FEEL what it is doing to you.. A lot of nicotine will make you sweat, feel dizzy and remind you that the cigar may need a bit of time in a humidor.  Aging a cigar will actually diminish the amount of nicotine in the smoke.

The next leaves down on the tobacco plant are called the seco and these are where the perfume and wonderful intoxicating flavors come from. They burn a little faster than the ligero and contribute much to the profile and characteristics of what you are tasting.. The bottom of the plant contains the volado leaves, these are used to help a cigar’s steady burn but will still contribute flavor as well..

Wrapper leaves come from tobacco plants that are grown under a tent of cheese cloth to prevent the sun from burning the plant and also to protect the plant from wind.. Wind will cause the leaves to thrash about and develop small rips and tears in the leaves which will disqualify them from making it to the final stage of rolling.  You need a perfect leave to wrap a cigar so the appearance is flawless.

One of the most exciting characteristics about last year’s release of the Cohiba Behike was the the blend that included the Medio Tiempo leaves that appear, rarely, at the tops of the tobacco plant.  This opened up a whole new line for Cohiba and with award winning results.

I would still need to write volumes to include all of the factors one must look at to fully understand what goes into a Cuban cigar but I thought I’d briefly mention some of the most basic points.

The Results Are In !

The results are in for 2010 and the Cohiba Behike 52 is ” Cigar Aficionado’s ” cigar of the year in their annual quest to find and name their top 25 cigars.  Anyone who has had the good fortune of lighting up one of these stout 4.7 inch long ( and yes ) 52 ring gauge masterpieces from Cohiba will agree that there is something special going on in the blend of tobaccos.

2 top leaves which only sometimes appear on a tobacco plant, called Medio Tiempo, were introduced in this blend of incredible tobacco and the results made the world sit up and take notice.  The flavor was ultra creamy, earthy and so smooth that I knew I had something very special in my hand when I tried my first last summer.  Rather than letting it sit in my humidor for a few years, I had to smoke it as soon as I bought it.

Oh yes, thats another thing…. Finding these tend to be a bit of a trick since there is a limited number of these cigars that get produced out of Havana at the ” El Laguito” factory.  Most Cuban cigar smokers want to taste them and see what the fuss is all about and although the price is considerably higher than all other Cubans, no one was letting that get in their way of buying as many as they could afford in 2010.  Many cigar smokers haven’t tasted them yet and ” Cigar Aficionado’s ” nod will only make the demand for these cigars even greater. The other 2 brothers in this release were the 54 ring gauge and the 56 which disappeared off the shelves almost instantly.

Contact Trevor at “The Vancouver Cigar Company”, ask when more of this brand will be available, treat him well, and with some luck you may have some of these aging in your humidor by the spring.

Cuban Cigars Because You DESERVE Them !!!

A week ago I had lunch with a TV director from L.A. who told me that he believed that spending large amounts of money on Cuban cigars and expensive wine was pure madness..  We were having a nice chat and then he dropped that bomb on the conversation and I was taken aback for a moment or two.. I wasn’t sure how to defend the point that fine quality red wine, either from France or any part of the world was worth every penny you spend and I also wasn’t sure what to say about spending what I do on Cuban cigars.  I let this conversation sit with me for a few days.

Cuban cigars, in my humble opinion, are worth every penny because the quality of tobacco and care in production.  When I speak of the quality of tobacco I keep thinking about the different individuals who left Cuba after the revolution and the results they found after planting Cuban tobacco seed on different Islands and in different parts of the world.  Nothing has come close !! Now I agree that cigars from different countries have beauty and complexity but there is nothing like a Cuban cigar and around the world, on a daily basis, people will shell out more for what they believe is a superlative product.

This is where I get to my point about what I believe you deserve.  I don’t think that there is any need for fiscal responsibility when it comes to assessing the quality of our character, how much we are loved by others and by putting limitations on what we occasionally spend on ourselves.  I believe that our self image should be regarded ( by ourselves ) as the best in the world, top of the heap and all Olympic Gold Medal Winners!!  The moment I start telling myself that I don’t deserve the very best is the moment that I start sabotaging my happiness and potential.

I tend to smoke a lot of Cuban cigars.  The picture above is one of a 12 ” high beaker filled with the bands of Cubans that I well probably consume in a year.  Some years I smoke more but this is only September and it is full already.. This is what I believe I deserve, this is what you deserve and there is no reason why a passion like this should have any limitations.  I want as much as I can squeeze out of life, I want the best in the world and although I don’t have drawers full of Faberge Eggs, I have a foot high beaker that is filled with the proof that I have tasted the finest!

Cohiba Behike 52

This beautiful band is all that I have left of the Cohiba Behike 52 I smoked last night… No ashes…. No Butt, this is IT !!!!  I ended up at a good friend’s last night and we lit a few Cohibas and shot a few games of snooker in his rumpus room.  He has a room with a flat screen, wet bar, snooker table, leather chairs and lots and lots of ashtrays which made me think that there aren’t enough rooms like this left on our planet, but that’s another discussion altogether.

His humidors were stocked with a lot of different Cuban cigars of various ages and a few of the lads decided on Cohiba Lanceros , one guy brought a Cohiba Siglo VI and I revealed that it was time to try the Cohiba Behike 52.  Well here we go, this is exactly the kind of experiment I was waiting for, one that will let a few of us test and compare how the Behike stacks up against a few different Cohibas from different sides of the family.  Everyone there was quite thrilled that we would all be able to do this kind of a taste test.  The wet bar was getting a lot of attention and a lot of alcohol was consumed but for this little contest I decided on mineral water, no lemon and no ice!!

We all marveled at the Behike’s construction and what seemed to be perfect density and after my matches ignited a strip of Spanish cedar it was revealed that just the smallest amount of resistance was present in the draw of this cigar which told me that this was going to be a great time.  I was instantly struck at the mildness of the Behike but at the same time I noticed that there was a sweetness present that told me that the Medio Tiempo leaf was giving me something completely new and exciting that I could observe as this cigar evolved.  I was amazed that, for such a young cigar, I could taste a balance that revealed no harshness with not one flavor taking over and round full flavors of milk chocolate and slight hints of coffee….. But….. There was definitely something new in the Cohiba profile that I had a difficult time putting my finger on but when you think about it, this is what’s so exciting about discovering new high quality cigars form Cuba, comparing them with others from the same brand and trying to guess what a bit of age would do to the profile.

Cohiba Behike 54

A few days back I felt the need to go for a drive in the rain.  This was an afternoon when not a lot was going on and I wanted to have a cigar in a warm, dry and windless environment so it seemed fitting that the car would be the best place to light up a cigar I had been wanting to smoke for a while now.  This years new addition to the Cohiba line, the Behike, is a much anticipated release which uses the Medio Tiempo leaves from the top of the tobacco plant.

I was struck with the realization that the usual Cohiba flavors were not present in this great cigar as I enjoyed the first third.  I’m a lover of the Cohiba Robusto, with it’s varied flavors and incredible rich performance but the Behike was quite a bit different.  I found the “54” to be a very easy cigar to smoke, considerably smoother and more complex then the Siglo series but please remember that every day a cigar can taste differently so don’t quote me on this.

The construction was impeccable and this cigar burned very evenly right down to the end.  I was trying to think of how I could best describe the flavors of this cigar and the dark chocolate kept coming through in the first and second thirds.  The dark chocolate mellowed a bit into the final third and got a bit creamier, which I found to be very pleasant.  Coffees were subtly present but seemed to come and go as the cigar burned and I found the whole experience to reveal a beautifully balanced Cohiba example.

These cigars can be difficult to obtain and so I’d recommend getting them whenever you find the chance.  Canadian cigar shops should probably have them in stock from time to time, look for them, pick up a few and smoke them while they’re young to see for yourself what the buzz is about and then save a few for a few years as well.

Cuban Cigar Smoking, A Solitary Affair

So often I sit alone and become transfixed on the subtle nuances that appear in the different flavors in a good Cuban.  I have to admit, it becomes intoxicating and sometimes takes all that I have in terms of concentration to be able to identify and properly label every flavor that I taste.  Then there are times I will show up at a gathering of cigar smoking friends and we share stories about the different fish we have caught, movies we have watched or pretty much anything that comes to our minds but whenever I take that next puff I am reminded that for that moment in time I am all alone and experiencing something very unique and personal.  So the question I have to ask is, ” Is cigar smoking a solitary affair?”  I think that we are solitary beings even in a crowd and we all taste something different much like the fact that 2 people will always see the same color differently.

Yeah I can hear you now as you ask yourself, “Can we be sure that its cigars this guy is smoking?”

Cigars are all I smoke but I ask myself from time to time if its possible for 2 people to smoke 2 cigars out of the same box and taste exactly the same flavors. The answer is no and this is what I find so fascinating about this passion we share.  The first point I’d like to make is that tobacco blending is not an exact science, oh they get it very close but each hand rolled cigar coming out of Cuba is more of an original work of art compared to machine made cigarettes or a bottle of your favorite diet cola.  The second point is that your taste buds will behave differently in the morning than they do in the afternoon or after a heavy meal at night.  I don’t know about you but I greet that fact with somewhat of a bittersweet feeling.  On one hand I’m somewhat frustrated that I can light up a robusto one night and experience total Nirvana and two weeks later it doesn’t have the same effect.  On the other hand two weeks down the road I can be rewarded with an experience so superior that I wonder if the cigar even came from the same factory.

I know that this happens to all of us but the fact remains that whether we are alone or in a crowd Cuban cigars give us flavors, whether we can identify and properly label or not, that take us away from the crowd and back into our own solitary selves.