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My Cigar Blog

A Malaysian in search of the perfect cigar

Marc’s Picks: Bolivar Presidente Swiss Regional Production 2013

I was having a chat with Marc of CigarOne.com fame recently, and we were talking about what cigar i should smoke. I’ve been smoking a lot of “regular rolls” lately: mainstays such as the HDM Epic #2, PSD4 and Cohiba Robusto. Nothing really interesting has come across my smoke palette recently, until Marc suggested the Bolivar Presidente Swiss Regional Production 2013. I said why not, always willing to take a punt on the recommendations of a fellow Brother of the Leaf.

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When it arrived, i was intimidated by the size of the thing. I’m no stranger to large cigars, of course, but it’s always striking to see one up close, especially from a brand like Bolivar that isn’t well known for its large vitolas. A robusto extra, 54 ring gauge, and 150mm long, that’s a huge amount of tobacco.

It’s easy to mess up the roll for a large cigar. I’ve seen my share of large Cuban cigars that were either underfilled, or not rolled tightly enough — both will cause problems for the burn and the draw of the cigar. But not the Presidente: it had the perfect amount of firmness, and just by touching the cigar, i knew that this was going to be a good smoke.

Continue reading “Marc’s Picks: Bolivar Presidente Swiss Regional Production 2013”

Cohiba Lanceros LBT OCT 09

This post could otherwise be titled, “The best cigar i’ve ever smoked but never reviewed on My Cigar Blog… until now.”

I’ve had Lanceros’ quite a number of times over the years, but never in a situation where it would have been suitable or possible to do a proper review. People will give them to me at herfs and parties. Or at after dinner events, over drinks and good company. Or i would find myself out and about somewhere, i’d walk into a cigar store, pick up a Lanceros then smoke it as i continued whatever i was doing. In all these situations, the cigar was purely for enjoyment, i didn’t have a camera with me, and i wasn’t taking notes.

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Thus, after more than a dozen years, such a long and lovely love affair with this most elegant of Cuban cigars, i never wrote about her.

Yes, all other cigars are male. This one, the Lanceros, is a female. Not just any lady, but Amanda Seyfried type of beautiful.

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Hoyo de Monterrey Grand Epicure EL 2013

It was an excellent herf: a good bunch of people, a good restaurant with good food, and an outstanding offering of cigars. Nothing much else could have been better.

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Kevin Shah‘s new place, “Holy Smoke”, opened a few weeks ago. Themed after the cigars he loves so much, the decor of the place is amazing: there are a couple of Harley Davidson’s lying around, and the walls are packed with cigar memorabilia — rare prints, cigar photographs, and old Habanos brand labels. It’s like being transported into world’s most obsessed cigar den! Check out the photographs of the place (FB album).

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Arturo Fuente in ASIA!

There are very few cigars brands that i smoke outside of the Cuban marques. This is not to mean that non-Cuban cigars are bad or poor. This just means that i rarely have the chance to smoke non-Cubans and from the small sampling that i have tried, i only really like a few. It’s a matter of opportunity and taste, that’s all.

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The two non-Cuban brands i have had the pleasure of sampling extensively have been the Padrons and the Arturo Fuentes. You’ll find a good number of reviews for both here on My Cigar Blog (Padron reviews | Arturo Fuente reviews).

Padrons i am able to purchase whenever i want at great prices and selection at WTF, a local divan. But Fuentes have been elusive, and when available (locally, the Habanos Lobby Lounge has a good selection), tend to be very expensive.

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Cigar Technique: The Finger Roll

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There are several techniques a person needs to master in order to ensure they obtain maximum enjoyment from their cigar. They are:

  1. The Cut
  2. The Light
  3. The Draw
  4. The Finger Roll
  5. The Denouement

One of the chief gripes i get from friends and through readers of My Cigar Blog concerns the consistency of their cigar. Why does the cigar taste good in the beginning, then taste bad towards the end? Why does the cigar “canoe” (burn unevenly)? Why does the cigar get hot in my hands? Why does the cigar taste like ashes? Why does the smoke burn my lips/palate?

The answers to these questions lie in the 5 techniques above. The one most often overlooked and misunderstood is #4 — The Finger Roll.

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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.

Continue reading “WTF. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. What makes a good cigar lounge.”

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