Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hav-a-Tampa closes

(Read the Tampa Tribune story here.)

Hav-a-Tampa is not a big cigar brand, and the cigars they produce are inexpensive machine-made quickies; not at all in the same league as premium hand-mades. Their parent company, Altadis USA, however, is a HUGE cigar company that makes many different brands, premium and otherwise, both in the US and abroad. And very few cigars are made in the US these days because of the high costs.

Now there is one less, and more people unemployed. I guess my only question is: Where will the money come from to support these essential tax-funded programs when nobody smokes anymore?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Keeping Cool

We have no consistent air conditioning at home (seldom-used window units) and the temps inside typically hover around 80-85 degrees during the summer months. We're used to it for the most part, but temperatures like that can spell disaster for your cigars.

The problem isn't the temperature, per-se, but the fact that anything over 73 can lead to the hatching of tobacco beetle eggs. These eggs are so tiny they can't be seen, let alone cleaned off of every leaf. And when the beetle larva hatch they go to town eating your precious cigars!

So, what to do? The coolest, driest place in our house is the basement. A dehumidifier keeps the humidity down, but raises the temp. I'd read about keeping your humidor in a cooler with minimal ice-packs, so that's what I'm trying.

Here's the set-up: an old aluminum cooler with plastic 8x10 developing trays to raise the humidor off the bottom, and a single cooler pack off to the side. I have a darkroom thermometer at humidor height, so we'll see how well this works. I'll let you know.

Necessity is a mother, ain't she?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tabacos Baez Serie SF

When I heard that Don Pepin Garcia was putting out a new cigar in the $3.00 price range I had to try it. Who wouldn't? The Tabacos Baez line is pretty well established, so would the new Serie SF (Short Fill) be as good? And how would it stack up against other cigars in the $3.00 price range? I had to find out.

Information is hard to come by on this stick. I could assume that the same filler, binder and wrapper are used here as in the regular Tabacos Baez line, but who knows.

That said, here goes . .

Contents: ?
Wrapper: ?
Size: Corona 6x46
Body: Medium
Acquired From: Outlaw Cigar Co.
Price: $3.00
Smoke Time: 1.5 hours

The wrapper was a bit veiny and the cigar felt solid without crunchiness or lumps. The cold draw was a little firm with not much flavor except for a little pepper on the lips and tongue. This draw left a little loose tobacco in my mouth; to be expected I guess.

First Third
The cigar was easy to light and produced a great volume of smoke. Initial flavor profile was of rich tobacco with a hint of pepper in the finish leaving a pleasant sweet leather aroma. Farther in, it progressed to an earthy flavor with a touch of black coffee. The burn line was a bit wavy but was easily corrected by simply turning the cigar as I smoked. This won't be a "long ash" contest winner, but it held its own throughout. Ashing it revealed a perfect cone-shaped burn.

Second Third
The flavors stayed in the same profile but became slightly more bitter; never more than black coffee though, and the body increased to medium. The aroma remained in the same.

Final Third
I noticed a slight increase in pepperiness in the finish, and the flavor seemed to move into more of a coca profile. There was no harshness, though, even to the nub.

This was a very good cigar. I've smoked less impressive sticks at twice the price. And the price cannot be ignored. The $3.00 cost puts it into competition with Curly Heads and the like, and the Tabacos Baez Serie SF blows them away. In fact, I think it may be the best smoke in its price range. There are better cigars at less than twice this price, but the Serie SF is better than half the quality of those. Add to this the fact that I've seen advertised prices online of $37.80 for a box of 20 in this size.

I smoked the Tabacos Baez Serie SF with a lite beer, but I really think it would pair well with morning coffee if you like stronger cigars that early.

Would I smoke this cigar again? Yes
Would I recommend this cigar? Yes. For the price I don't think it can be beat.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Jose Oliva at The Outlaw

Another fine afternoon of great food, great cigars and great beer was had thanks to The Outlaw Cigar Company. This party featured Jose Oliva of Oliva Cigars. (on the left, below)

I had a chance to talk with Jose about the cigar business in general and his family's involvement in it. The family business had long been tobacco-growing. After leaving Cuba because of Castro and later fleeing to Honduras because of the Sandinistas, they returned to Nicaragua when the political climate stabilized and got into cigar making at the very start of the boom in the early '90s. It was interesting to hear about the numerous pitfalls of starting a business with some 3,500 competitors, most of which would not survive the decade. And after hearing about all the ways cigar making can go wrong, from the planting and growing to the fermentation and aging, the blending, rolling and finally shipping and storage, I can really appreciate what it takes to be successful in this industry.

The weather, and construction on I-29 may have been responsible for keeping the usually huge crowds away, and that made for a nice change, IMHO.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Buying Cigars Online

Like most people still do today, I got into cigars back in the mid '80s by purchasing a sampler pack I saw in a magazine ad. Today, it's not just sample packs and magazine ads. You can buy everything through the internet, including the finest cigars at very good prices!

But like buying anything else online, finding good cigars takes research. Just because the retailer says that these are the best cigars this side of Cuba doesn't necessarily make it so. Here are a few tips I've learned along the way:

1) Take your time. Don't be rushed into a deal just because it's about to expire.
2) Do research independently of the retailer. Read cigar reviews, LOTS of them.
3) Smoke reviewed cigars and get a feel for what the reviewer likes and where your tastes differ. This will give you a better idea of whether you might like a particular cigar or not.
4) Check availability and pricing between online retailers. You may find that a particular cigar is a "store" brand and not available anywhere else, or you may find that the special sale price offered by one is the regular price of another.

Friday, June 5, 2009

ITC 10th

This one had been in my humidor since March, so I though it was time to smoke it. The Indian Tabac 10th Aniversary by Rocky Patel celebrates (obviously) his tenth year of production with this brand.

In a nutshell, I was not impressed. The flavors started off nice but before I was even 1/3 through it the Corojo wrapper bulged and split halfway down the cigar. The splitting continued in other areas as the burn continued erratically down this stick. The flavors started turning sour and bitter at about the halfway mark and I called it at just over an hour with lots of cigar left to go.

From what I've read after the fact, this isn't unusual. Too bad.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Camacho Connecticut: The long and short of it.

The Connecticut is a new offering from Camacho in response to requests for a milder cigar. This is their first connecticut-wrapped cigar.

Mild cigars often get a bad rap. They're thought of as weak, sometimes labeled as "beginner" smokes. And Connecticut-wrapped cigars are often mild, so many cigar fans shy away from them.

But while mild in flavor, the Comacho Connecticut is NOT a weak smoke!

Contents: Honduran and Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Connecticut (Ecuador)
Size: Toro
Body: Mild-Medium
Acquired From: Outlaw Cigar Co.
Price: $7.00
Smoke Time: 2 hours

The cigar starts off with a mild but spicy flavor with a bit of pepper in the finish; very nice. But I have to say that through the first half I was easily distracted. The flavors didn't command my attention. Construction was near perfect and the even burn produced clouds of fantastic smoke.

By the second half, however, I started to "get" it. This is not your average mild smoke. The flavors didn't change much, but I found myself really enjoying it. The body picks up along the way and the flavors, while still mild, grow on you. It's kind of hard to explain, but I started to really appreciate what this cigar had to offer. It was not difficult to take to the nub!

Would I smoke this cigar again? Yes
Would I recommend this cigar? Yes. Any time of day.