Habanos Specialist Exclusive San Cristobal Torreon Jar

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A Easter Sunday without a cigar on the back deck just wouldn’t be right so I’m thinking that since this is a special day, then a special cigar is warranted.  This Geniales, or Robusto Extra appeared on shelves of Habanos Specialty shops in 2013 but this cigar which came in a beautiful pale yellow jar with an ashtray top was initially released in 2012.  Once again I’m relieved that The Vancouver Cigar Company’s status has been changed so it’s loyal patrons can have access to cigars which are usually reserved for La Casa Del Habanos outlets exclusively.

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This will be a cigar that will last a while since it has a length of 5.9 inches and a ring gauge of 54, I’m expecting 1 1/2 hours of smoking time Easy!  Initial thoughts on construction were nothing short of amazement.  Perfect feel through the length of the cigar, smooth colorado claro wrapper, exquisite triple cap and after clipped this cigar, although firm, had a perfect effortless draw.  Pre-light draw revealed a mild mild flavour of hay, woodiness and subtle barnyard notes with a hint of black tea on the finish.  With two wooden matches I toasted the head and then ran into no trouble at all with getting this cigar lit.  First few puffs were very entertaining, I thought for a moment I was smoking a Trinidad with it’s cedar and spice but that was tamed down within a  few moments when a beautiful muskiness appeared letting me know that I was now smoking pure Cuban Heaven.

Cedar and honey seem to be prevalent in the first third, slight powdered chocolate appear as well but very slight.  I’m enjoying every puff and have to remind myself that when I hurry and smoke quickly a lot of the subtlety gets lost in the flavour profile, I have to take my time and keep the flame cool.  Quite often I enjoy letting a cigar rest in my humidor for at least a few months before lighting but this cigar has all of the maturity and smoothness of a cigar way beyond it’s youth.  The burn is razor sharp and I’m seeing that the second third is now letting me taste a bit of black coffee notes mixed with cedar and honey. None of the spice that I detected early on has re-appeared, only a sweet cedar base which is stubbornly staying in the forefront.

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Entering the final third I’m tasting a darker woodiness in the flavour profile, the sweetness is slowing down now and a darker coffee is elbowing it’s way into the forefront.  Stubborn ash finally fell away and a perfect cone appeared, telling me once again how much care was given during the construction.  Since the Ligero leaves from the top of the tobacco plant burn more slowly due to more mineral content,  their presence in the center of the cigar gives you this cone effect when your ash falls off.  The end of this Robusto Extra’s life in the final third is as enjoyable as the first and second, no harsh flavours and no nicotine buzz.  The sweetness I experienced in the beginning is still there when I let the flame cool,  so much is revealed when you take your time.

Only 2,000 of these jars were released, this cigar will not last long on the shelves since I’m of the belief that collectors will be buying up most of what they find in shops around the world.  I feel lucky to be smoking this cigar and lucky that the weather is allowing me to have a perfect smoking experience!

Master Cigar Roller at Vancouver Cigar tonight

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Vancouver Cigar is finishing summer off with a bang.

Tonight, August 24 2013, we are hosting master Cuban cigar roller Sr. Lazaro Batista Miranda. Lazaro will be demonstrating the fine art of cigar rolling.

Lazaro Batista was born in Sagua de Tanamo, Cuba, on December 17th, 1966. He began his rolling career in 1991 at the Partagas Factory. In 2000, due to his great skills, he received the category of Maestro de la Calidad, “Quality Master”. Shortly after, he was transferred to the H.Upmann factory where he has worked his way up to Department Supervisor.

Vegas Robaina-Don Alejandro

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A few days back I stopped in at The Vancouver Cigar Company and Trevor directed me over to a few new boxes of cigars that had just arrived.  I usually get wrapped up in the excitement of Cuba’s annual releases of ER’s and EL’s, who can blame me, but this time I concentrated on a box from Vegas Robaina, Don Alejandro a 7.6 inch X 49 ring gauge,  very attractive Double Coronas or Prominente ( Factory  Name ).  The special edition cigars make a lot of waves every year and collectors all over the world will not balk at spending a premium to collect and age boxes of these rare and sometimes hard to get cigars while the regular production Cuban cigars, like the Don Alejandro in this case, will sit on the back burner in people’s minds.  I’ve said before and will always maintain that almost every Cuban handmade cigar with the right amount of age will surprise and dazzle lovers of Cuban cigars, regardless of it’s band.  This box of Don Alejandros had a 2011 stamp on the bottom and Trevor mentioned that Havana House, the official distributor of Cuban cigars in Canada, has been sending The Vancouver Cigar Company some very special boxes lately.  One look at the slightly oily and smooth wrappers on these cigars told me that this could be one of these boxes and I felt very lucky to be the first person to pick a few cigars from this presentation of 25

After clipping the head of this Don Alejandro I tested the draw and found only a slight resistance which is perfect in my opinion.  Because these cigars had been resting for going on two years I wasn’t surprised to taste a total absence of ammonia,  only slight hints of black tea and very subtle notes of dark chocolate.  After lighting this rather large and impressive cigar I was initially met with a cedar and toasted tobacco based profile but this only stayed present, and with a bit of an attitude, for a short time before notes of bittersweet chocolate started to accompany this woody taste when the cigar settled down into a more medium strength smoke.  This mellower flavor presentation lasted well through the first third, it continued to show a cedar based flavor profile but evolved into a very sweet cigar with no shortage of honey and milk chocolate.

Well into the halfway mark and over an hour of smoking this Double Corona I started to taste leather in this cigar’s profile, I became transfixed on every puff since I’m used to seeing a cigar with this size become a bit predictable but there were smooth transitions from sweet chocolates to honey, cedar and leather, convincing me that this was one of the best cigars I’ve smoked this year.  I’m a big fan of the Vegas Robaina Famosos, Unicos and Clasicos, I really do love the quality of the tobacco in this line and it’s very distinct taste but the experience of this Don Alejandro was starting to tower over all of my previous memories of smoking this brand.  Final third left me in a bit of a trance-like state, the strength ramped up predictably but the sweetness continued and never really left the flavor profile to the end.  Wow!

If you’re at all curious about this cigar and wish to try a few from this particular box, I’d strongly suggest contacting The Vancouver Cigar Company in the very near future to find out how many are still available.  I’m rarely this rabid about a cigar but I was very pleasantly taken by surprise and thought I’d write a few words about this experience.

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.

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.

Montecristo Regata…Perfect Medium Strength, Mid-day Cigar

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A Montecristo that is catching on with many new smokers is the Open Series Regata, the smaller brother of the Montecristo No. 2 with a tapered head, a 46 ring gauge and 5.3 inches long.  The high quality filler tobacco and smooth, slightly oily wrapper will start off being a bit spicy in the first few puffs but will settle down into a sweet, almost creamy coffee and toasted tobacco profile into its first third.  Halfway into the cigar, a bit more cedar is introduced and then this cigar ends with a steady medium strength that is perfect smoking for a crisp autumn day.

When the “Open Series” from Montecristo was first introduced in 2009, a lot of die hard Monte smokers lined up to buy and finally taste the new cigars that many people were talking about.  Initially the series was met with mixed reviews because the old regulars were expecting an experience similar to the Edmundo and Monte No 2, what they were met with was a flavor profile that didn’t have the strength and maybe the complexity that they were used to.  This was exactly what Habanos expected but weren’t aiming to get the old guard on board, their intention was to introduce a new line of cigars that new smokers could become attached to.

It worked.  Many new cigar smokers are now lining the bottoms of their humidors with the Open Series, whether it be the Regata ( my favorite), the Master, the Eagle or the Junior.  These cigars are the perfect mid day cigar because of their gentle approach and smooth finish that doesn’t overpower the palate with strong flavors of pepper or strong cedar finishes that stay with you for the rest of the day.  Let the Cohiba or Partagas big boys be your companion as you smoke the last cigar of the day.

Montecristo No. 4

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The above picture reveals a Montecristo No. 4, which is a Mareva ( factory name ) and at a 42 ring gauge and 5 inches long.  This will give you a medium to full body, Cuban, handmade cigar that will give you up to an hour of great flavors which are creamy, earthy and complex.  Leather and coffee are two more notes that race to the forefront in the first third that carry through till the end of the cigar.  As this cigar gathers some momentum during and into the second half, beany flavors such as, vanilla, cocoa also come into the profile, giving this compact and elegant cigar a complexity that makes it a classic Cuban that has earned the title of being the most smoked Cuban on the market.

Like most, if not all Cuban cigars, this cigar needs a bit of age to realize it’s full potential and at least 3 years in the humidor is strongly recommended.  These will still smoke, burn and draw well when they’re young but tend to be a bit of a powerhouse that will make you stand up and pay attention if smoked hot and quickly.  With everyday life speeding up for all of us, a Mareva like this one is the perfect size for a short time out with a cigar and a glass of rum.

With popularity and proven quality also comes the danger of running into counterfeiting and copying this cigar.  This is where one should be extra careful in insuring that you get these cigars from a reputable dealer.  The vancouver Company gets it’s cigars from the Canadian distributor, Habanos.  This is as real as getting them from La Casa Del Habanos in Havana and in most cases more safe than Havana shops.  I hate to say it but I feel more secure buying Cuban cigars from my favorite cigar company in Vancouver than pretty much anywhere else.

Always consider that websites that sell Cuban cigars at an unrealistic low price.  Do a bit of homework and see for yourself that there is a middle ground, as far as price goes and if you can buy these more popular brands at a fair price or a little under the norm, you’ll probably be fine… But…… Let your experienced palate be the judge !!  Fake Montecristos simply taste one dimensional and bitter, nothing at all like the real thing.

The Right Environment

machine-made-romeo9376y59 Nothing makes me happier than going to one of my humidors, seeing that the moisture level is accurately being monitored with my digital hygrometer and its reading anywhere between 69 to 71.  That tells me that the humidity level is exactly where it should be for aging and storing fine handmade Cuban cigars.  A higher moisture level will result in mold forming on my cigars ( game over ) and anything considerably lower would result in cigars being too dry and bitter when I smoke them.  If you’re planning on aging a cigar for 20 or 30 years, you can get away with the humidity level in a humidor being in the low 60’s but if you’re in any way similar to my way of living, then you’ll probably be smoking them sooner, quite a LOT sooner.

The cigar in the picture is a Romeo y Julieta No. 3 that I’ve had for 4 years.  This is a smaller machine made cigar which appears a bit rough but that’s because I took a close up of the cigar to try to show the small amount of plume that is forming on it’s wrapper.  If you end up with plume or bloom on your cigars, you have an environment in your humidor that is perfect for aging Cuban tobacco.  Pray to every God you can think of that this happens to you, anything less, then you need to do a bit of adjusting to your moisture and heat levels.

Think about what happens to a bottle of fine wine that is left in a warm, even hot and sunny spot in your house.  After a year or two, the only thing the wine would be good for is cooking in a recipe that calls for a bitter purple vinegar.  You wouldn’t treat your wine that way and it’s best to not treat your cigars in the same manner.  A chemical transformation is taking place in your humidor where you are dealing with tobacco that is slowly fermenting, which results in the flavors in the cigar smoke becoming less harsh, less bitter, smoother and more suited for the sophisticated palate.  Many aficionados will not smoke a cigar that is younger than 10 years old, but some of these people also have humidors that hold 10,000 plus cigars.  There’s a whole big world of cigar smokers that have different sizes of bank accounts, different tastes and preferences when it comes to cigars from different cigar producing nations.

I’m simply happy when my cigars age the way they should and taste great!

Quintero Brevas With Good Friends

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Perched atop a glass of Merlot, above in the picture,  is a Quintero Brevas.  This cigar may not be the most expensive Cuban you will find nor will it be the most complex but it is in a class with Jose L. Piedra as being a cigar that will give you more than you might expect for the money you’ll spend.  We are entering into the winter months and just beginning a time when you may not want to light up a cohiba or Trinidad on a cold day outdoors.

With 5 1/2 inches long and a 40 ring gauge, you’ll get over an hour of smoking time from this moderately priced cigar and it will give you clouds of smoke, an easy draw and an even burn.  Not bad for a machine made cigar but miles ahead of Non-Cuban brands at the same price.  This is, once again, something that amazes me about Cuban cigars.  Its the soil, the sun and the age old tradition of making cigars without any additives that gives us this kind of flavor.

There is a bit of power in this small cigar.  Like I mentioned before, complexity is what you WON’T find but you’ll get loads of cedar, a bit of leather and a moist earthy finish that lasts for some time on your palate.  The cigar does NOT evolve as it burns down but DOES stay very pleasant as long as you don’t smoke it very hot.

I’m not sure that pairing a cigar with any kind of wine is good for me since I’m really a Scotch guy, but I had no problem with these two vices I cling to.  The evening spent with friends, cigars and wine was more than worth while and I’d do it again in a heart beat.