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My Cigar Blog

A Malaysian in search of the perfect cigar

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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Saving a plugged cigar, a how-to guide

We’ve all been there. Sometimes you just get a cigar that can’t be smoked, its plugged. The draw is devilishly hard, smoke volume is low and the extra effort it takes to draw leads to poor technique and subsequently harsh and bitter flavours. It happens. Premium Cuban cigars are 100% made by hand, and there will be some unavoidable variables that lead to construction consistency.

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Not all cigars get turned to ash. Some just get thrown away.

It’s rarer nowadays; ever since Altadis, the Franco-Spanish tobacco giant bought into Habanos SA to the tune of 50% ownership in 2000, the quality control techniques Altadis transferred over have been a boon. Before then, Habanos SA didn’t use modern technology to QC their production (amazing how such amazing cigars were still produced consistently), but since then equipment such as draw testing machines have come into the picture and a good sample of every batch of cigars is tested before boxed and sold.

And still we get cigars that are difficult smokes every once in a while. I would estimate prior to 2002 before some of the new techniques became widely used, between 5-10% cigars smoked would have “issues”. Since then, perhaps 1-2%.

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Kevin’s Little Big Smoke, a review

Recently, i was invited to the Habanos Lobby Lounge by Kevin Shah for a cigar tasting. He had just returned from the United States after attending the cigar event of the year, Cigar Aficionado’s Las Vegas Big Smoke. He had a bucketload of cigars he needed tasting, and i was more than happy to oblige. Never having a chance to attend a Big Smoke, this was probably the next best thing! Thanks, Kevin, you’re a champ!

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The Big Smoke is a place where the cigar companies that market to North America get a chance to show off their latest and greatest cigars. Of course, Cuban cigars are missing from the mix due to the embargo of Cuban products in the United States. But just about everyone else was there: the Alec Bradleys, the Padrons, the Fuentes and many others, new and old, some who are coming to their umpteenth Big Smoke, and others coming for their first. A target rich environment, if there ever was one, for a distributor such as Kevin Shah searching for new products and brands to bring to Malaysia’s shores.

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RESULTS: Guess the Words Contest

This contest was over pretty early, thanks to a really lucky guess by KevinP! Congratulations! Please email your shipping address to me, and i’ll get your prize on it’s way to you.

It’s been great fun keeping this blog, 9 years on strong now. The secret sauce is in the passion — i love cigars, it’s been a great hobby for me for so many reasons, and it’s constantly got something new for me to discover. I’ve made countless friends over a cigar. I’ve sealed business deals over a cigar. I’ve even had love over a cigar. And of course, all my readers here on My Cigar Blog — it’s great to be able to share “the good life” with all of you.

So many highs, it’s been quite a journey. May it long continue, cheers!

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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CONTEST: Guess the Words & WIN a Limited Edition Trinidad Ashtray

Contests are fun! And judging from the response for the last one i ran on My Cigar Blog, you think so too! So, it’s a Sunday, i was smoking a lovely Perdomo Lot 23 and decided that it was time to do another!

First up, let me tell you what the PRIZE is!

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A gorgeous porcelain Limited Edition Trinidad Ashtray is up for grabs!

My relationship with Trinidad, one of Malaysia’s icons in the cigar business, a valued member of the Pacific Cigar Company distribution network, has been a long one. Going back to the days when i first started smoking cigars, and the friendship i forged with the famed Naresh Mohan. The lads at Trinidad are great fellas all around, and their contribution to the cigar aficionados here in Malaysia can’t be underestimated.

What good would such a lovely ashtray be without some cigars! The prize includes a handful of cigars from my private stock. The last time i did a contest, the winner received a trio of cigars with more than 20 years on them. Expect more of the same here.

So what do you need to do to win?

Continue reading “CONTEST: Guess the Words & WIN a Limited Edition Trinidad Ashtray”

Cohiba Pirámides Extra

Sometimes a cigar comes along that just stops you in your tracks. So completely unexpected, so brilliant, so flavoursome, so beautifully constructed that you can’t help by look at it and go, “Wow”. The Cohiba Pirámides Extra is one such cigar.

Click on any images in this post for the larger version in Flickr.

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I’ve had my feelers out for this cigar for a LONG time, and it’s been hard to come by. Rob over at Czar’s had them for a short while, but sold out before i could say Bob’s my uncle. Local retailers don’t have these in any way or form; i was told several boxes appeared on the radar, but were pre-reserved by big hitters. Then one day, Ravi from Cigars of Habanos sends me an email saying he has a few boxes. Outstanding! (the cigars aren’t listed on his site, but you might just want to email him in case he still has any left). In a few days, i had a box in hand, and i was very happy.

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