Cigar Sunday

Today, I smoked an old favorite, the Fuente Double Chateau Maduro. It is a medium-light/light-medium body cigar, that gives good flavor.

Since O’Banion’s is closed because of COVID-19, I smoked it in my car and while the wind made it a bit interesting, it worked. Really looking forward to better weather where I can smoke on the back deck as smoking is not allowed in the house.

The cigar I smoked today had a good sheen to the wrapper, which is a sign to look for. If you get a cigar and it is dry, the wrapper flaking, etc. it has not been stored properly and is one you should return. You will notice the sheen more on Maduro and other dark wrappers, but even light wrappers should have that bit of oily sheen that tells you it’s done right.

It got off to a fairly solid start, with a woody center (cedar) and notes of dark chocolate and leather to the sides. On the finish, there is a sweetness high in the mouth. There was some pepper in it, and as I smoked some additional notes of nutmeg and clove came out for a bit. I punched this one (intensifies the flavors) rather than cut, and was glad I did so.

It paired well with some bourbon, though the bourbon cut into the notes a bit. As it progressed, the second third seemed to solidify a bit with a solid mouthfeel. More pepper came out, and dipping the cigar into the bourbon really brought out the sweetness on the finish.

The bottom third was strong, and had a strong finish. For me, the dark chocolate came out more, perhaps with some dark coffee notes as well.

For a medium/light body cigar, it is solid. An old favorite, I’m glad it still held up well given how I like fuller-bodied these days.


Cigar Sunday

Since we are in some ways starting over, I thought it might be a good idea to truly start at the beginning.

Welcome to Cigar Sundays and how to enjoy a cigar. Think of this post as a sort of Cigar 101 for the new smoker, and, a bit of a brush-up for the more experienced people.

There are those who will tell you that you can only start with one type of cigar and that it had to be rolled on the thigh of a virgin, that you can only light it with cedar, that you can only light it with a special type of match, that you can only light it with a special type of torch lighter, that you have to puff/not puff rapidly, and a lot of other balderdash. Just as with someone telling you you have to rub honey in the bowl of a new pipe and let it dry before smoking, people who tell you these things really don’t know what they are talking about.

First rule of Cigar Club: There are no rules.

There is no one right way to enjoy a good cigar. There is no one right type of cigar. There is no one right way to light it, to smoke it, or anything else. Nor do you have to spend a huge amount of money on either the cigar or on related gear.

First, if you are new, I do recommend starting with something milder. Breaking in gently is not a bad way to go. The only problem is, there are a lot of expensive hot air sticks (cigars with no flavor), so go to a good store and the staff will be glad to help you find something good to start. If you are here in Indianapolis, allow me to recommend The Pipe Puffer on the south side across from Greenwood Mall. Great selection, good prices, and the staff (and many of the regulars) know their stuff.

Once you have your stick, you will need to cut or punch it before smoking. Toasting, the different types of cuts, and punching will be a Cigar 102 post. Get some advice, cut or punch, and then light up.

The key to lighting is simply to evenly apply whatever flame you use so that you get an nice even burn. Use a match, a torch, a regular lighter — whatever works for you. Take your time, get it even, then puff.

Now, the one thing I don’t recommend is inhaling. Most of us just pull the smoke into our mouths and enjoy the flavor. While I do know a couple of people who inhale into their lungs, most people find it very unpleasant. As in it makes them sick. So, just avoid it for now.

Don’t puff too hard or too fast. Take the time to savor the flavors, and note how they change as you work your way down the cigar. Most cigars, or at least good ones, are made so that the flavor changes about every third of the way. A cigar may start out mild and work up; or, it may start strong, then mellow, and come back for a strong finish. Some do maintain a fairly constant flavor, but even there you may notice some of the flavor notes coming and going as you smoke.

The main thing is to enjoy your smoke. If the first one is too mild or too strong, try another. Over time, as you smoke, you will probably find that what you enjoy changes over time. For example, I started on reasonably mild cigars and now very much enjoy fuller-flavored cigars. I particularly like Maduro cigars for the chocolate, leather, and spice notes you can get with them.

Also, don’t smoke it too fast. Yes, you will see videos where people try to smoke various cigars as fast as possible. Know of someone who took one of those challenges, and his reward was running out the door to vomit. Not worth it IMO.

As you try new things, you will find out about the different types of wrapper and the flavors they impart (which are about 90 percent of the flavor in fact). How binder and filler can add (or detract) from the cigar. What makes a good cigar. It all comes with time, with learning and listening, and experience.

Oh, when I said no rules, I do mean it but don’t: try to light a bubble gum cigar; don’t try to light one of the leaf wrapped cigars without removing the leaf; don’t dip the lit end of the cigar into any adult beverage you may have or be offered; and, well, things like that. I really do need to record the tales of the Lurch one day…

So, go forth and enjoy.

Sunday Cigar: Fuente Royal Salute MD

It’s been far too long since I’ve been posting cigar reviews. Time for that to change. And, to kick off getting back to writing about the things I love, there is an excellent smoke to share.

This maduro was appealing for several reasons. For one, it is from Fuente who make a number of excelent (and a number of good) cigars. They are one of my go-to brands. Second, I love the size as I prefer cigars that are a 55 or less ring gauge. This had a length and diameter that appealed to me.

It is very well constructed and burned fairly evenly. The ash in the photo is because I goofed and let it go over into the ash tray.

It had a nice start with good flavor of wood (cedar, oak), spice (mostly pepper but with hints of more aromatic on the sides), and a bit of leather on the undertone. The pepper really came out at the end of the first third, and it paired nicely with the glass of champagne I was offered. Very different from my usual bourbon or scotch, but it worked well with the cigar.

The second third mellowed with more wood than spice, and made an enjoyable interlude before the spice built back in the last third for a solid finish.

Recommendation: High

Sunday Cigar

And pipe, of course. Today, I want to introduce you to my new favorite pipeweed: Spark Plug.

I’m told that this has been a while in the making, and G. L. Pease states that he’s been experimenting on it for more than a year. On the tin you will find:

“Deep and dark. Powerful yet refined. The smoky, leathery backdrop of Latakia is layered with an almost incense-like spice of rich orientals, with fine Virginias added for depth and a subtle sweetness. Like the classic roadsters that inspired its creation, Spark Plug has an alluring charm that invites you to rev it up and take it out for long drives in the country. Sliced thick or thin, it will never leave you stranded.”

While I have a fairly decent palate, I truly can’t begin to describe how rich and deep are the flavors in this tobacco. The depth of flavor is absolutely amazing, and three tins in I’m still not able to wrap my tongue around all the flavors. Yes, you get the smoke from the Latakia, the sweet from the Virginia, and spice from the oriental.

However, unlike most pipe tobacco and even cigars, what you are getting is not individual notes but a symphony of flavors that are blended from the individual notes. I hope this won’t offend Mr. Pease, but one of the closest things I can find to describe it is having real south India/Ceylon curries as done by natives: the flavor is amazing but it is almost impossible to guess all the ingredients that went in as different notes swim to the top at different times.

I may have a better grasp on all the notes and flavors by the time I am 20 or so tins into it. Will I hit that? Barring some disaster, yes. In fact, I’m liking it so much that I’m smoking my pipe more frequently than ever.

Plugs are a bit different, and if you’ve never smoked a plug tobacco before, don’t worry. Take it out of the can, use a sharp (good) knife, and cut off slices. Thick or thin really doesn’t matter as each will work on this one. Let the slices dry out for a few minutes, check with your fingers to see when it hits a more “normal” feel. Then load and enjoy.

If you have more than one pipe, try it in different size bowls. Each brings out a different range of amazing flavor and it has been quite fun doing so.

Recommendaton: Highest

Cigar Review: Aganorsa Leaf

This is a little odd, but I need to start the review by noting that Casa Fernandez has changed it’s name to Aganorsa Leaf. This actually brings operations under the family tobacco growing operations, and is part of an ongoing effort to rebrand operations under a common banner.

At a recent event for their JFR cigars (excellent cigars for the price), I was given the opportunity to obtain one of the special Aganorsa Corojo cigars. On a recent Sunday morning, I fired it up and enjoyed it with a morning cup of coffee.

It had a nice medium body at the start, with woodsy notes on the early draw. Some definite cedar with some light spice notes, along with a bit of a bite on the finish. As the first third progressed, more spice notes came in, including pepper, making for a very nice build in flavor.

Midway through, it mellowed a bit with the spice notes moving to the higher end. The final third moved back to a solid body with plenty of flavor as the wood and spice ramped back up. It did not burn hot until the very end.

All-in-all, a good smoke though it did burn a bit unevenly on the final third. It paired well with both black and fortified coffee. On a technical note, the cigar was punched and lit with a jet lighter.

CAO Columbia

Not the best photo, but a good cigar. Though I tend towards maduro and fuller-flavored cigars, I do like an occasional lighter smoke.

The CAO Columbia is one of those treats, though to call it lighter doesn’t fully do justice to it’s rich spices and medium to full body. From cinnamon to woodsy notes, there is plenty of flavor in the cigar. Recommended.