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My Cigar Blog

A Malaysian in search of the perfect cigar

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Cigars

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.

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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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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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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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My Cigar Blog’s Cigar of the Year 2012

As we bring 2012 to a close, it’s a time for reflection, to look back on the year that was. It’s been an exciting year for me, both personally and professionally. The family is well, i’ve fulfilled one of my childhood dreams (i’m blessed to be able to say that, amen), work is great in that i’m doing something i love and i can see how my actions are shaping the market. Even on the cigar front, i can say that the cigars i’ve smoked in 2012 have been the best cigars i’ve smoked in recent memory, in at least the last 3 years. For the first time in My Cigar Blog’s history, not one but two cigars in a year have reached the magical 95-point mark. While both the Cohiba 1966 EL and the Cohiba Pyramides Extra deserve special mention for being outstanding cigars, they aren’t My Cigar Blog’s Cigar of the Year 2012.

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Neither of these great cigars are My Cigar Blog’s Cigar of the Year, though they are amazing cigars and a must-have

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The criterion for that award, just like in previous years, is quite strict. It needs to be a smoker’s cigar, a cigar that everyone can have, anytime, anywhere, and be assured of a great smoking experience. Specifically, it needs to be a cigar where:

  1. I’ve smoked at least 15 sticks over the year, not necessarily from the same box or box code
  2. Easily commercially available
  3. Been smoked over a variety of situations, environments, matched with different drinks and food

Honestly, i haven’t agonized over a decision like this for a long time. Most recent years have been cut and dry affairs, with the standout cigar of the year being quite prominent and easy to identify. In 2011, it was the unassuming Bolivar Petit Corona – boxes from 2010 were amazing (i still have some). In 2010, it was the Ramon Allones Small Club Corona – boxes from 2009 were incredible (sadly, i ran out of these a long time ago).

The cigars that matched the criteria above are:

  1. Ramon Allones Small Club Corona
  2. Partagas Shorts
  3. Partagas Serie D #4
  4. Partagas 898s
  5. Hoyo De Monterrey Epicure #2
  6. Cohiba Siglo II
  7. Cohiba Siglo I
  8. Bolivar Royal Corona
  9. Por Larranaga Petit Corona
  10. Montecristo Edmundo
  11. Montecristo #4
  12. H Upmann Half Corona

From this shortlist, the cigars that really deserve honorable mention are the Cohiba Siglo IIs, the Montecristo Edmundos (these have been doing well for me for several years now), and the H Upmann Half Corona which also takes the cake as Best New Kid on the Block.

For the Cigar of the Year, boxes from 2011 have been outstanding, and i’ve even smoked a few early samples from early 2012, and those have been crazy good as well. Not a single plug, construction uniformly perfect, the best, shiniest wrappers i’ve seen in many a year. From a flavour perspective, it scored very well due to how consistent the blend is; no mean feat due to the fact that this cigar is produced in such large quantities. How the factories (and this cigar is made in several not just one, thus increasing the variable of difficulty even further) are able to keep the blends in check despite the volume is nothing short of amazing.

It’s often an overlooked cigar. A go-to smoke for many, but not something that most would consider “that special smoke”. And that’s ok — it doesn’t have to be special, it just needs to be good. Over and over and over again. It promises familiarity, like your favourite pair of leather loafers. It promises an experience, not a mind blowing one, but one that is memorable, even if only for a few moments afterwards, “Damn, that was a nice smoke”-kind of way. It’s time that this cigar, delivering for so long (i’ve smoked it for more than 10 years now), and delivering particularly well this year, receive the recognition is deserves.

My Cigar Blog’s Cigar of the Year is the Montecristo #4!

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Read the most recent review of this love cigar on My Cigar Blog.

Thank you for being a great companion this year, for all the good (and bad) times we’ve spent together. May the good times roll for many more years to come.

Hoyo de Monterrey Particulares (OSU OCT 02)

Recently concluding a large project at work is as good a reason as any to really break out something special. I was visiting one of KL’s best humidors the other day, the Habanos Lobby Lounge, Federal Hotel, and stumbled across a really old box of 10 year old HDM Particulares in coffins. It was an amazing find, there is a story behind the HDM Particulares coffins.

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The original HDM Particulares Grand Coronas were produced in 1980 and quickly discontinued in 1987 due to lack of popularity. Those came with the classic HDM maximus band, in boxes of 5 sticks, and did not come in their own coffins. Habanos SA flirted with the idea of bringing back the Particulares in the early-2000s, and even released a EL version with coffins in 2000 (extremely rare cigar nowadays). Premium dark rosado wrappers made the HDM Particulars EL 2000 a very sought after cigar. Then in 2002, a batch was made to bring them back into regular production. The plan to was eventually canned, but the batch made in 2002 were released anyways, and have turned out to be every bit as rare of the EL 2000 version. The 2002 batch sport the new standard HDM band and come in their own coffins.

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Cuba’s #1 Cigar: Montecristo #4 (ABR 2011)

When the Montecristo brand of Cuban cigars was introduced in 1935, it was listed as a super-premium brand. The Rolls-Royce. The Michelin Star. The Cohiba. Made with the choicest tobaccos, under the watchful eye of Alonso Menéndez, it was a great smoke. Montecristos produced from the 1970s such as the rare Montecristo “B” are  collectible cigars now, and will punch a deep hole in your wallet if you go hunting for them.

It’s apt, in a way, that the best selling Cuban cigar, the Montecristo #4, carries the name of such a prestigious brand. Habanos SA doesn’t release any production numbers, but it’s estimated more than 20 million #4s are sold and smoked worldwide every year. That’s a staggering number of cigars, approximately 8% of the total output of the island.

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The attraction of the cigar lies in several areas. The first of course is the familiarity with the Montecristo brand. For those in the know, the brand has a distinct flavour profile that is widely loved — woody, medium floral notes, with a burst of dark tea and vanilla spice. For those who are new to Cuban cigars, the name Montecristo is a stroke of branding genius: name your cigar after a wildly popular fictional character, and not just anyone, but a character whose personality oozes charm, power and charisma. No way in hell the cigar isn’t going to do well with that type of name recognition. So if you don’t know anything about Cubans, and don’t want to fork out the premium for the Cohiba (Cuba’s other ubiquitous brand), then you’re likely to choose Montecristo.

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