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Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva

This review could also be named, “The night my tastes were spoiled forever”. The Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva will change the way you look at every cigar that comes after.

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The concept behind the Gran Reserva was simple: make the best Cuban cigar possible. Take the best tobacco, give it to the best rollers, and let the magic happen. Tobacco aged from 2003 were used to make the first of the Gran Reserva line, the Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva. Released in 2009 during the Habanos Festival, they were extremely well received with the famed James Suckling calling it a 100-point cigar. I don’t always agree with James, but in this case, i have to wonder: could this be the perfect cigar?

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El Rey Del Mundo Aniversario RE Asia Pacific 2012

Thanks to the indefatigable Ravi of Cigars of Habanos, i landed a box of these babies after a long period of looking. You can buy this cigar under review from the COH website.

A few things strike me outright about this cigar: they are huge and they have a great aroma (very woodsy). The moment i cracked open the box, i was quite impressed at the sight, and not just a little intimidated to be honest. The ERDM Aniversarios weigh in at a hefty 5 7/8 inches long by 54 ring — a previously unavailable vitola (shall we call them “gigantes”?). This new size will surely appeal to a very broad market, though i’ll admit i’m not a real fan. Smaller ring gauges are more my pace.

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I’ve been nursing a box of ERDM Choix Supreme for the better part of 8 years now, and though i’m down to my last 10 sticks or so, i haven’t had one for more than a year now. The ERDM marque are known as mild, sweet, cigars — akin to smoking the flavour of burnt honey; a refreshing clean tobacco flavour. Having said that, they are also known as a brand with quite a high miss rate. I suspect it has something to do with the difficulty involved in putting together such a delicate blend; it’s terribly easy to go over or under and spoil it. As i started lighting up the Aniversario, i wondered whether it held true to the ERDM experience, hopefully in a good way.

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Made to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pacific Cigar’s entrance into the Asian market, Regional Editions such as the Aniversario are “made to order” — bespoke cigars on a mass scale. Limited to 4,000 boxes, yes, but that’s still a heck of a lot of cigars — 80,000 sticks. Since they are in effect custom cigars with custom blends, i’d imagine that they were made to suit the taste buds of the region. If so, the ERDM brand is a good choice for Asia, i think, where delicate cigars with memorable long finishes generally do very well e.g. Trinidads.

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How low will you go? Nubbing a cigar.

I was fortunate to receive this pearl of wisdom from a viewer of one of My Cigar Blog videos recently.

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It made me think about my smoking technique, and why i smoke good cigars all the way down to the nub.

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Zoltland has a point — a cigar evolves very dramatically during the smoking process. The longer you smoke it, the greater the tar buildup in the remaining portions of tobacco, and yes, it generally creates a stronger, bitter flavour. But in my mind, this is how you tell the difference between a good cigar and a bad one.

A cigar made from well cured and well fermented leaves will have a lot of tar broken down during the stacking process. Stacks of tobacco weighing around 50kgs each are wrapped in cloth and allowed to “sweat”. The internal temperature is monitored closely to watch for large variation swings and when it reaches 140 degrees, the stack is pulled down to release tar, ammonia, and nicotine. Then it’s re-stacked. This is done several times until the temp will no longer reach 110 degrees. Done properly, this reduces the content of these nasty chemical elements in the tobacco; one of the reasons why Cuban tobacco generally has such a refined flavour is preciously because this process is done painstakingly carefully to ensure that as much chems are burned out as possible.

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So unlike third-rate tobacco used to create fourth-class cigars, a good cigar is easily smoked down to the nub without tasting foul, and why i smoke down all my cigars because they are practically good till the last inch. Waste not, want not.

Of course, to each his own. Even good tobacco, smoked down to the last inch or so, will be quite strong, and some palates will not enjoy the sensation. In such cases, stop. A cigar that stops giving pleasure is a cigar that needs to be put down.

WTF. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. What makes a good cigar lounge.

There is no real shortage of cigar lounges here in KL, or rather shall i say there are no shortage of places that call themselves “cigar lounges”. There are several things that a place needs to have before it can lay claim to being the real deal.

  1. Cigars. Lots of them, and not just the stuff for “tourists” (someone who enjoys a good smoke, but couldn’t tell the difference between a Montecristo and a Partagas). A good lounge has a good selection of cigars, ranging from the main brands like Cohiba and Montecristo to the less celebrated like Por Larranagas and Ramon Allones.
  2. Knowledgeable sales staff, preferably a cigar sommelier of several years of smoking experience who is able to educate, entertain and recommend suitable pairings. The last part of this is really tricky and equally revealing. A person who has just memorized what the Cuban Cigar Website has to say about every brand may sound knowledgeable, but a true sommelier is able to deliver the full experience, including food and drink pairings that will light up all your senses.
  3. A Theme. Lots of places think that to qualify as a cigar lounge, all they need is to cobble together a few chairs and tables, serve some drinks and offer cigars and voila, a cigar lounge you will be. But that’s not true. You become a place that sells tobacco, at best a tobacconist. A cigar lounge is not just about the cigars, it’s about the experience. Like it or not, cigars are a luxury item, something that when we light up (which tends to be fairly rare unless you can afford it), we want to be treated to a fun and happy experience. A lounge with an appropriate theme goes a long way to making this happen. Some of the best lounges i’ve been to in Kuala Lumpur are decorated so tastefully that you feel you’ve been transported to Havana. Others, resemble a latin bar with great live music (loud, but fun, and a great place to have a cigar).
  4. Perfect storage conditions. When you walk into the lounge, or at least the humidor where the cigars are kept, the air has to be cool, not cold, with just a touch of humidity in the air. Look for a digital hygrometer to tell you the humidity and temperature; every good lounge will have one of these displayed. For a place like Kuala Lumpur where our ambient humidity is extremely high, the room needs to actually feel drier than it is outside. If the lounge is in a mall or a hotel where the air is kept cool through air conditioning, don’t forget that air conditioning dries the air; therefore, the lounge or the humidor needs to feel more humid than the ambient. If the cigar lounge doesn’t get this right, it means that the cigars are not being stored properly, and may taste/burn funny.

There are lots of other details that go into a good cigar lounge, but as long as the 4 items above are satisfied, then it should be fine.

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Montecristo 520 Edición Limitada 2012

The first release of Edición Limitada (EL) in 2000 was special – the RyJs, the Partagas and the Montecriso ELs that year were really outstanding cigars and highly prized in the aged cigar market today. But since then, the ELs have been a hit and miss affair. 2001-2003 were forgettable (2002 had no ELs). The 2004s were notable because of the Cohiba Sublimes (an amazing cigar). Then 2005-2006 were misses. Then 2007 was kinda fun because of the uniquely creamy Trinidad Ingenios (and since then, you won’t be able to find another cigar that matches that blend). 2008-2009 were horrible. 2010 saw the introduction of the Partagas Serie D Especial – a great cigar, and devilishly difficult to find in the market nowadays. 2011 was fantastic with the Cohiba 1966 being a massive homerun; the Hoyo de Monterrey Short Piramides aren’t too shabby either. 2012 looks like another homerun with the Montecristo 520s and the Partagas Serie C No. 3s being great smokes.

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Two good years in a row? What have they been smoking on isla Cuba? (pun intended)

The Montecristo 520 EL 2012 was created to celebrate the 520th anniversary of Cuban tobacco’s arrival in Europe, after being discovered by Columbus. It’s been that long since the royalty of Spain puffed daintily on smoke rolls of tobacco, and the ladies wearing white gloves to avoid staining their fingers. Certainly worthy of celebration! And what a way to celebrate.

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