REVIEW: Yagua

REVIEW: Yagua

Brand: Yagua
Size: Toro (6” x 54)
Factory: J.C. Newman PENSA
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

The Yagua is another cigar from Drew Newman, J.C. Newman’s fourth generation.

At our J.C. Newman PENSA factory in Nicaragua, Drew heard of an old style of rolling cigars from the factory’s general manager, Lazaro Lopez. Lopez runs the operation down at PENSA and his grandfather used to bundle cigars uniquely in 1940’s Cuba. He would bind the finished cigars together without any molds or presses. Rather, he would use leaves from the Yagua, a Cuban royal palm tree, to give these cigars a shape.

The cigars are rolled a little more wet than usual and once the humidity stabilizes, they take the shape of the other cigars inside the leaf. Every Yagua will have a slightly different shape. Packaged in a crate style box, these really give off an antique and rural appearance. A U.S.A. Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper incases Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Just like the J.C. Newman Cigar, The American, there is nothing else in the industry like it.

 

PRE-LIGHT

A beautiful burgundy band with gold accents compliments the dark, oily wrapper. Part of the fun with this cigar is that every stick is shaped differently; the one I smoked for this review happened to be shaped like a rhombus. Upon smelling the foot, I was greeted with hay, barnyard, and a dark fruit undertone. I would not be surprised if the Yagua tree imparted some flavor of palm fruit. The cap held up nicely against a few shallow guillotine cuts until I got my desired depth. The cold draw was intriguing as well; hints of pepper, musk, and fruit complimented the sweet chocolatey wrapper. Overall, I found it to be very savory and earthy.

 

FIRST THIRD

Toasting the cigar released a thick, dark smoke that smelled of damp broadleaf tobacco. It reminded me of the smell my father used to have on his clothes after a late-night cigar and was very nostalgic.

The first third of the cigar was medium in flavor but on the retrohale I found the strength to be medium-full. Dark spices, barnyard, and sweet fruity tones delivered in a peanut butter textured smoke was most delighting. The wrapper did not require any touch up; a slight moment of waviness evened out on its own with a good double puff. The draw was perfect, and the smoke output was spot on. All flavors were well executed, dark, and very rich.

SECOND THIRD

The second third of Yaga featured a nice transition into what stayed consistent during the duration of the cigar. The spices died down a little bit and the other flavors became more prominent. Musky barnyard, chocolatey peanut butter and dark fruit took the stage. I can tell that the wrapper is well fermented and aged. There is a lot of flavor consistent with the best characteristics of Broadleaf tobacco.

The cigar never got hot no matter what I threw at it. The strength and flavor was overall medium but retrohaling gave me a little more bite. The bouquet coming off the foot was very dark and earthy.

I found myself enjoying the smell of the smoke, even when I was not puffing.

FINAL THIRD

Though there was not much of a flavor change upon transitioning into the final third the cigar remained quite enjoyable.

The earthy tones and spice were well balanced and the smoke coated the mouth nicely until the very end. Sweetness came into play on the finish to make for the perfect synergy of flavors.

This cigar is constructed like El Reloj itself: very sturdy. All the components of this cigar were thick tobaccos. Even lighting it outside with windy conditions made for an even burn. The flavor was super rich, thick, and pungent. I would want to pick this cigar off the shelves regardless of the story. The wrapper drew me in, while the heap of flavor kept my attention.

Because this is a small batch, limited production cigar, there’s an element of adventure added when trying to track down the Yagua at your favorite brick & mortar store.

A Note to Retailers:

With every limited release cigar, I think it is important to not sell the cigars as a complete box. Most stores that have access to the Yagua will only have about two boxes on hand.

At the same time, I think it’s important to encourage your patrons to buy more than one, to see how they progress when aging. Smoking one after a few months, another at the six-month mark will give the best overall experience. There is a lot of fun to be had with a cigar when the production has a new technique to it.

About Nikolaos Psilopoulos

Nik has been working on the retail side of the cigar industry for 5 years. The past 3 years his palette has been experienced enough to formally taste and review cigars for your reading pleasure. At El Reloj he is running our factory store and giving tours. He is a Certified Retail Tobacconist with the PCA’s educational resource, Tobacconist University. You can expect him to further his tobacco knowledge with us at J.C. Newman and encourages visitors to ask all the questions that come to mind.

Outside of the world of cigars, you can find him enjoying the great outdoors or participating in dog sports with his Australian Shepherd.

REVIEW: Diamond Crown MAXIMUS

REVIEW: Diamond Crown MAXIMUS

Brand: Diamond Crown MAXIMUS
Size: Toro (6” x 50)
Factory: Tabacalera A. Fuente, Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuador El Bajo Sungrown
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican

The Diamond Crown MAXIMUS was released as a bold, full-flavored line extension in 2005. It was made to celebrate the 110th anniversary of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. What makes this cigar special in my eyes is that it is a collaboration between three notorious names in the industry.

The wrapper is an El Bajo Sungrown from Equador, grown by the Oliva Tobacco Company (not to be confused with Oliva Cigar Co.). The mountain geography in this area lets the nutrients erode down the mountain and settle in the valley where the tobacco is grown. In combination with the soil, they also use the higher primings of the plant that carry more flavor and intensity. In the Dominican Republic, the Fuente family grows the binder and filler. It is a top-secret blend and they do not disclose the exact region and varietals used.

Once these unique, flavorful tobaccos come together they are crafted by the Fuentes at Tabacalera A Fuente. The dark wrapper is offset and complimented by the blue and yellow on the band. After that, the fully dressed cabinet style boxes compliment the dark wrapper and make it pop when put on a shelf. I think this is a beautiful and elegant addition to the Diamond Crown Line.

 

PRE-LIGHT

The packaging and presentation really catch your eye. When parting ways with the cellophane, the wrapper really takes the stage. The extremely oily, dark wrapper makes for an attractive look, hinting at the full flavor that is to come when you set it on fire. I would also like to note the bold yet clean vein structure. There is a noticeable number of teeth to this cigar. The oil and teeth make for an excellent feel. Both characteristics help avoid a one-dimensional experience. Upon smelling the foot, I can get quite a bit of damp earth and cocoa. The wrapper on the other hand, smells like straight up dark chocolate! There is no mistaking the wrapper smell. I wish I had some high-end dark chocolate to pair with this.

 

There is only a little give to this cigar, it falls on the firm side of the spectrum. No holes or dips to be found. It seems to be rolled consistently. The cap is constructed well and holds a good shape with a shallow straight cut. The wrapper taste makes for a great experience. Unmistakably, sweet chocolate is apparent. There is also some sort of dark fruity undertone coming from the wrapper, I want to describe it as cherry. The cold draw is very enjoyable with hints of hay, earth, and chocolate. There was enough complexity in the MAXIMUS without even lighting it up. I found myself enjoying the cigar before even lighting it up.

FIRST THIRD

When I started toasting the foot of the Maximus, I got a good smell of charred spices. It really caught my attention and sparked my senses. After a few good puffs, it is lit! The draw required effort but not enough to call it tight.

The first third stays true to the claim, full flavored without a doubt. The intensity on the other hand, is medium to full. I pick up notes of hay, sweet earth, pepper, and dark chocolate. The retrohale was strong during the first third and delivered a taste of peppery cocoa. Afterwards, the finish was sweet and spicy. The pepper did not linger on the palette which makes everything a little more pleasant. Once the temperature cooled down a bit after lighting, the pepper became evenly balanced with the other flavors.

 

I find it enjoyable to smoke it at higher temperature as well as a cooler one. A mixed ash of white and grey clings tightly with an even burn. The ash is very sturdy and straight as an arrow. No touch ups required at all during the first third. It started out even and stayed that way. Overall, the first bit of the cigar was very strong and flavorful. There was a significant amount of bite. By the end of the first third, I’m finding that the flavors balance out and it becomes a little more well-rounded.

SECOND THIRD

During the second third, everything seemed to level out. The pepper dissipated; I was left with a sweet and spicy, smoother smoke. Damp earth, hay, and dark chocolate dominate the foreground. The finish is rather sweet, and the chocolatey note sticks around afterward. On the retrohale, there is a fair bit of spice and cocoa. The smoke from the foot is thick and pungent and smells very dark and spicy. I found the intensity to be medium to full during this portion of the cigar. Even though the pepper and bite leveled out, I still found it to be full-flavored.

For the rest of the second third I am plagued by trying to name a flavor that appeared. I can only describe it as a dark fruit and my brain wants to name it black cherry. This appearance and transition really kept my attention. It is easy to get overwhelmed and bored with a stronger cigar, according to my opinion. The flavor change during this portion made for a great change and kept my palette intact.

FINAL THIRD

The final third of a full flavored, stronger cigar is usually a toss-up. Sometimes things get too hot to enjoy or decipher flavors. With the Maximus, it is a very different experience. Pepper becomes a noticeable part of each puff while dark chocolate and earth reinforce the flavor. This cigar never becomes one dimensional. I did find there to be an iron and gamey undertone which seemed to replace the dark cherry flavor I previously named. While still being full flavored and medium to full bodied I never tasted anything acrid or unpleasant. I enjoyed every part of the flavor and smoking experience all the way until the very end. I decided to put it down when there was little more than an inch remaining.

Reflecting on the MAXIMUS, I can best describe it as complex and flavorful. The flavor was very well delivered for a fuller bodied cigar. I was impressed that the pepper never protruded and became unpleasant. While the pepper did fall to the background during the second third of the cigar, I found the intensity to remain the same. The sweetness and chocolate remained resilient during the entire cigar.

Other flavors varied: hay, earth, game, dark fruit all came in at various part of the cigar. All these attributes made for a full-flavored experience that kept things interesting. I think the MAXIMUS is the perfect cigar for the end of your night or after a hefty meal or start your day with a little kick.

A Note to Retailers:

There are many different selling points to this cigar. The easiest point to relay is that the Maximus is the product of three very prominent and experienced families in the cigar industry. It combines the innovation of the Newman family, the craftsmanship of the Fuentes, and the tobacco growing expertise of the Oliva Tobacco Company. I would like to suggest retailers educate full bodied cigar smokers and encourage them to try this.

A lot of full-bodied cigar consumers may be stuck on Nicaraguan or Honduran blends. The Maximus has a comparable amount of strength and body but has a Dominican feel to it. Also, consumers may associate Diamond Crown with the classic shade grown line. Make it a point to tell them about the darker stuff in the line-up like the Maximus, Diamond Crown Maduro, or Black Diamond.

About Nikolaos Psilopoulos

Nik has been working on the retail side of the cigar industry for 5 years. The past 3 years his palette has been experienced enough to formally taste and review cigars for your reading pleasure. At El Reloj he is running our factory store and giving tours. He is a Certified Retail Tobacconist with the PCA’s educational resource, Tobacconist University. You can expect him to further his tobacco knowledge with us at J.C. Newman and encourages visitors to ask all the questions that come to mind.

Outside of the world of cigars, you can find him enjoying the great outdoors or participating in dog sports with his Australian Shepherd.

REVIEW: Brick House Robusto

REVIEW: Brick House Robusto

Brand: Brick House Classic
Size: Robusto (5” x 50)
Factory: J.C. Newman PENSA, Estelí, Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador Havana Seed
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaragua

All cigars, like the Brick House, were once made with Cuban tobaccos. The Brick House brand has been around since the early days of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. The first-generation Newman that started the company, Julius Caeser, came up with the name.

Prior to his immigration to the United States, J.C. lived in a brick house in Hungary. He and his family lived in a small village where they would all gather in that brick house to eat, drink, and smoke. I imagine that brick house felt like a friendly, brick and mortar cigar shop. J.C. blended this cigar to reflect his times at his brick house: a place for good conversations and memories.

During the great depression, many companies were forced to consolidate brands. This brought about the end of the Brick House cigar. Despite lying dormant for 85 years, Bobby and Eric Newman had not forgotten their grandfather’s notorious brand. They brought back the Brick House and blended it with Cuban seed tobaccos grown in Nicaragua. This not only pays tribute to the Newman family, but it also emulates old school flavors once common in Havana clear cigars that were rolled in Tampa factories. Now made at our PENSA factory, this cigar takes you back to the days of pre-embargo cigars.

PRE-LIGHT

At first glance, the Brick House greets me with an off-white logo on the band, complemented by modernized yet ornate old school detail. The cigar slides right out of the cellophane and the first thing I notice are the oils on the wrapper. It really shines yet has a slight toothy feel to it. The veins are consistently mellow and have good structure. There are no zipper-like veins compromising the construction of the cigar. When I give it a good squeeze, it has a nice give, but there are no holes or pockets. It is made very well with a good triple cap stacked on the top that will clearly handle any variety of cut. I used a classic guillotine cut at a rather shallow depth as is my preference.  The foot of the cigar has hints of spice and hay.  On the cold draw, the wrapper taste delivered a nice fig flavor that was very noticeable with a nice nutty undertone. There was a slight sweetness to the wrapper which was subtle yet savory. I found myself enjoying the entire cold draw experience and was thoroughly intrigued.

FIRST THIRD

After toasting the foot of the cigar, I was able to get a fast and even light on the cigar. The first few puffs alerted my senses and delivered a lot of flavor. During the first third of the cigar I got a good intensity with spices, nuts, licorice, and figs on the finish. I was glad that the fig taste on the wrapper stuck around once the cigar was burning. The spiciness was the most prominent attribute and I found the flavor and intensity in the first third to be medium to full. The retrohale was smooth overall, not overpowering. I found the draw to be excellent; not too tight, not too open. A double puff revealed a little more complexity with woody notes to add to the array of flavors. The cigar was burning beautifully and required no touch ups in the first third. The teeth on the wrapper showed on the ash. The color of the ash was more white than grey and had no flakiness to it.

By the end of the first third, I was really falling in love with this cigar. The burn, construction, appearance, strength, and flavor were all delivered in a way that made you commit to finishing the cigar. The first third did what it was blended to do; keeping you around for the rest of the experience. I have smoked cigars in the past that were so boring in the first third that I wanted to put them out. This was not the case with the Brick House Robusto.

SECOND THIRD

During the second third of the cigar, I found the spices to die down a bit and the sweetness from the wrapper crept back into the profile. Dark fruit, nuts, and wood were the most present flavors, but the spice was still a factor. The texture of the smoke was creamy and on the thicker side. After such a spicy beginning I found this transition to be refreshing. The sweetness and smoke texture proved to be a nice contrast to the first third of the cigar. The Brick House burned like a champ. A straight, white, and grey ash held on beautifully with no flakiness. Whenever the burn started to get a little wonky it soon evened itself out with a little rotation. Some of the veins showed through the ash. At the end of the second third my favorite part of this cigar was the foreground. Wood notes and spice died down a bit more and I was able to find the taste of figs to be obvious once more with definite sweetness on the finish. At this time, I decided it was time to part with my old friend, the ash.

FINAL THIRD

As with most cigar blends, the final third picked up in intensity. Licorice and spice were most noticeable and delivered in a medium to full bodied package. It never got hot or bitter however I found myself only single puffing at this point in the cigar to avoid the heat. There was still some sweetness from the wrapper coming through at certain points as well as that beloved note of fig. Upon retrohaling the cigar, I was able to get more spiciness quite like the first third of the cigar. It was still very smooth which was uncommon for retrohaling a cigar in its final stages. The burn remained steadfast and even. I only had to touch it up once in the final third. The ash held together decently but did develop some flakes though they were not a major issue; I was not worried about the ash dropping or making a mess all over my clothes. By the end of the final third of the cigar, I was able to keep an ash that was about the length of the remaining cigar. I decided it was time to put it down only because my fingers were getting warm. The final third resembled the first third: a spicy yet smooth finish.

In my smoking experience, price has a lot to do with how I judge a cigar. If I pay $20 for a cigar, I hold it to higher standards.

If you are not familiar with Brick House and are reading this review, you will probably be wondering how much of a hit your wallet is going to take. You will be both comforted and surprised to know that the Brick House goes for around $6-$7 I consider this to be a must-have for any humidor and a box purchase makes so much sense. My travel case holds three cigars and one of them is usually a Brick House Robusto. The variation of flavors, construction, burn rate, appearance, and price of this cigar makes me regard it very highly.

At the conclusion of smoking the cigar, I found it to be more medium-bodied with high points that put the strength at medium to full. Even with a 54-ring gauge, I found this cigar to burn incredibly easily and evenly. Usually, a thicker cigar means more margins of error in the burn.

After smoking three Brick House Robustos, all burning consistently for about an hour and fifteen minutes, I can make one final testament to this cigar: the Brick House is constructed much like how J.C.’s family house in Hungary was surely built. This cigar holds up to everything you can throw at it. Just like J.C. Newman as a company, overcoming hurdles and adapting with the times for the past 125 years.

A Note to Retailers:

From the perspective of a retailer, this cigar just makes sense. The guy that comes into your store 5-7 days a week doesn’t smoke $20 cigars. He smokes something in the $6-$8 dollar range. Consistency and bang for your buck is what frequent cigar shop customers are looking for. The Brick House fits the bill on all accounts. I’d also like to note that J.C. Newman usually has at least one Brick House promotion a year. The Man Cave promotion in the past consisted of buying a full box of 25, receiving Brick House accessories, and getting a chance to win either a humidor or ashtray.

Earlier this year, we featured the “Brick House At Your House” promotion to support retailers during the quarantine.

Currently, some shops are offering our 125th anniversary cutter and ashtray set for free when purchasing any box of Brick House.

This brand has been relevant and highly rated for years and I don’t see it going anywhere. More times than I can count, customers walk through the front door and ask, “Do you carry any Brick House”? I couldn’t imagine my time as a retailer without Brick House on the shelves.

About Nikolaos Psilopoulos

Nik has been working on the retail side of the cigar industry for 5 years. The past 3 years his palette has been experienced enough to formally taste and review cigars for your reading pleasure. At El Reloj he is running our factory store and giving tours. He is a Certified Retail Tobacconist with the PCA’s educational resource, Tobacconist University. You can expect him to further his tobacco knowledge with us at J.C. Newman and encourages visitors to ask all the questions that come to mind.

Outside of the world of cigars, you can find him enjoying the great outdoors or participating in dog sports with his Australian Shepherd.

REVIEW: Cuesta-Rey No. 95

REVIEW: Cuesta-Rey No. 95

Brand: Cuesta-Rey
Size: Lonsdale (6 1/4” x 42)
Factory: Tabacalera A. Fuente, Dominican Republic
Wrapper: African Cameroon
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican

If you gaze up at the roof of our factory, El Relo,j or drive on I-4 you will see “Home of Cuesta-Rey Cigars” shining bright.

The brand has a rich history that clings tightly to Tampa and the Newman Family. The brand was started in 1884 when Angel LaMadrid Cuesta opened his first factory in Atlanta. A few years later he was joined in business by Peregrino Rey; Cuesta Rey Cigars were born. In 1893 they followed suit and joined the rest of the premium cigar industry in Tampa, gaining access to Cuban tobacco and skilled workers.

J.C. Newman and his son, Stanford Newman moved to Tampa in 1954 and they became very good friends with Karl Cuesta. After J.C. passed away in 1958, Stanford went on to make his first big business decision without his father: he purchased Cuesta-Rey along with a few other brands such as White Heather and La Unica from Karl Cuesta.

In 1961 the Cuban embargo came and devastated the entire industry in Tampa. Many companies threw in the towel because they did not have access to Cuban tobacco anymore. Stanford went to European tobacco auctions and stumbled across the African Cameroon tobacco. This tobacco proved to be comparable to Cuban tobacco and gave it a run for its money. The Cuesta-Rey #95 was already one of the sizes in the brand’s portfolio before the embargo. It was also the first numbered cigar on the market, named after Chanel #5.

After Stanford learned of Cameroon tobacco, it was decided that the #95 would be the first cigar to use the Cameroon wrapper in the United States. This was a revolution amongst an industry that had been cut off from its prime resource, Cuban tobacco. The Cuesta-Rey #95 saved the handmade, premium cigar industry and became the flagship premium cigar for decades after. They were once made here, but after our partnership with the Arturo Fuente Cigar Company and starting in 1991 every Cuesta-Rey is made at Tabacalera A. Fuente in the Dominican Republic. Cuesta-Rey had great marketing behind it which was part of the reason for its success as an international brand. We even had a Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar at the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg until a few years ago. This adaptation is just one of many ways the Newman family has overcome adversity over their 125 years in business.

Now, let’s get into the cigar.

 

PRE-LIGHT

When I look at the cigar the first thing that jumps out at me is the band. It has a clean, simple, vintage look that somehow still works in today’s day and age. Gold and red form the design while a white outline holds everything together. It reminds me of the original Diamond Crown bands. The size is worth noting. You do not see too many true Lonsdale vitolas on the market anymore. It is a size that used to be very popular but with the consumer preference shifting towards larger cigars, it slowly faded away.

After removing the cellophane, I can notice some subtle, smooth veins. There is a good bit of teeth on the wrapper with a decent amount of oils. Overall, the wrapper is a light brown but I can pick up on a faint reddish tint. The wrapper is very uniform and presentable, no imperfections whatsoever. The cigar is firm, with just a little bit of give. I cut it twice with cigar scissors and made a sort of shallow straight cut.

 

Upon tasting the wrapper I am greeted with a sweet coffee bean flavor with nutty undertones. There is no denying that this is a Cameroon, it carries the characteristics of that tobacco and executes it well. The foot smells a bit like sweet, damp hay.  After pulling some cold air through the cigar I pick up some cedar and brighter spices, like coriander. Every smell and taste on the pre light is very crisp. I get the feeling that this is going to be a smooth and flavorful experience. Maybe it is just my preference, but it is worth noting that this size feels great in the hand. It is best described as comfortable and elegant.

When I grab the torch and toast the foot, there is a nice bouquet of flavor. Sweet earth and coffee with a hint of wood catches my attention. The cigar doesn’t require much ignition due to the 42-ring gauge.

After a few mild puffs it is lit and has a good smoke output.

 

FIRST THIRD

The draw is on the tighter side which works well due to the size. The first flavors I decipher are nuts, cedar, coffee, and bright spices. There is a slight hint of sweetness on the finish that compliments the coffee and earthy flavors. I found the flavor to be medium and intensity to be medium. The retrohale has a little bite but nothing that will make you sneeze. While the smoke has a thick texture there is a leathery feel. If you double puff this cigar you can increase the heat along with the intensity. For half of the first third, I smoke the cigar hotter to get the bite. For the second half, I smoke it slower and at a cooler temp to bring out the pleasant bouquet. I recommend both depending on your palette. The ash is uniform for Cameroon tobacco. A stiff, white ash lingers with noticeable teeth. The burn is very even with no touch ups required. The Cuesta-Rey #95 has a very appealing first third with varying complexity depending on how you smoke.

SECOND THIRD

The second third of the cigar is just as intriguing but changes quite a bit. The cedar and spiciness dissipates. I am getting more coffee, sweet earth, and there is a noticeable hint of hay that crept in. The nuttiness is very prominent.  The smoke turns quite buttery and coats the mouth nicely. The aftertaste is awesome: sweet nutty coffee lingers and kept me looking forward to the next puff.

The ash holds together like a steel pipe. Normally with a cigar of this ring-gauge, the ash falls off after less than an inch. I was able to keep it around until I was tired of looking at it. At this point in the cigar, I appreciate the size delivering a lot of flavor from the wrapper. You cannot really find many thinner cigars with a Cameroon wrapper. The Lonsdale vitola really makes you appreciate the flavor. It is easy to see why this cigar became so popular after the Cuban embargo.

By the end of the second third things start to really kick. The retrohale is smooth but very fulfilling. All the flavors are still present. The spice comes back in gradually. This is a product of the blend, not the cigar getting hot and towards the end. At the end of the second third I would like to note that there are no bitter or acrid tastes to be found.

FINAL THIRD

There is something tastefully fulfilling about this cigar.

In the final third I am picking up hints of wood, coffee, nuts, and spices. The finish is sweet, and the smoke is thick and creamy; almost buttery. I expected the sweetness to be gone by this point, but it is still going strong. The blend has changed considerably, sort of like the first third to some degree. By the end of the cigar I was still able to pick up on all the distinct flavors. Usually the end of a cigar can be described as rough, but this was not the case. Everything stayed together nicely, the blend never became unbalanced.

The ash has turned from white to a dark grey. No flakiness or messes to be had when it comes to the ash.

My personal smoke time was about 1 hour and 10 minutes. My goal was to smoke it at an average smoker’s rate. Fast cigar smokers will notice that there is more cedar, wood, and spice to be had while slower smokers will really pick up on the coffee, nuts, and earth. I recommend smoking at different rates during each third to really see what the blend has to offer.

After smoking, I can see why the Cuesta-Rey #95 was such a monumental release. It truly saved the premium cigar industry. The size and band hit the nerves of nostalgia creating a time machine that brings you back to the days when cigars were 35 cents. At the same time the tobacco utilizes the magic that comes with smoking an African Cameroon Wrapper (ACW). In my opinion, there is no other cigar in our portfolio that has such a rich history. After learning the story of Cuesta-Rey you can develop a personal connection to the cigar which makes it so much more enjoyable. The brand is 136 years old and is still relevant today, which is very rare.

I would say the Newman family made Karl & Angel Cuesta proud when they said they would protect the future of the brand. If you are reading this, I encourage you to enjoy this cigar while sharing its story.

A Note to Retailers:

In my experience on the retail side of the cigar industry, sometimes you need more than the knowledge of tobacco to sell a cigar. Most consumers are not going to know the difference between wrappers, binders, and fillers when you are selling a cigar. Sometimes you need to form a connection. Maybe if your customer wears very fragrant perfume or cologne; you can say “the Cuesta-Rey #95 is named after Chanel #5”.

Maybe they are a baseball fan you can tell them about how we had a Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar at Tropicana Field.

If someone loves Cameroon tobacco, tell them about how the #95 had the first Cameroon Wrapper on a premium cigar. This cigar has a story that is rich and touches a variety of lifestyles and consumers. Retailers should add this knowledge to your cigar selling arsenal.

About Nikolaos Psilopoulos

Nik has been working on the retail side of the cigar industry for 5 years. The past 3 years his palette has been experienced enough to formally taste and review cigars for your reading pleasure. At El Reloj he is running our factory store and giving tours. He is a Certified Retail Tobacconist with the PCA’s educational resource, Tobacconist University. You can expect him to further his tobacco knowledge with us at J.C. Newman and encourages visitors to ask all the questions that come to mind.

Outside of the world of cigars, you can find him enjoying the great outdoors or participating in dog sports with his Australian Shepherd.

REVIEW: Brick House Short Torpedo

REVIEW: Brick House Short Torpedo

Brand: Brick House Double Connecticut
Size: Short Torp (5 ½” x 52)
Factory: J.C. Newman PENSA, Estelí, Nicaragua
Wrapper: Genuine U.S. Connecticut Shade
Binder: Genuine U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Nicaragua

The Brick House Double Connecticut was the latest addition to Brick House family of cigars. Not many cigars in the $8 price range use a real U.S. Connecticut wrapper. Most of them use a much cheaper, less flavorful Ecuadorian shade-grown wrapper. The Double Connecticut not only uses a genuine Connecticut wrapper but also features a U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf binder, hence the name.

The wrapper on the cigar is pristine, with a nice brownish tan color. The color is a lot darker than an Ecuador shade wrapper and the veins are a lot beefier. The wrapper is silky and has a nice gloss to it. Upon squeezing the cigar, it has a little bit of give while the cap has a little more of a spongey feel. I expect no trouble getting a good draw from this torpedo, which is normally my gripe with any cigar this shape. The foot band has an appealing patriotic look, making this the perfect cigar for any American Holiday. The five stars are indicative of Connecticut, as it was the fifth state to join the union.

I can see a lot of Brick House consumers gravitating towards this cigar on 4th of July.

PRE-LIGHT

Smelling the foot of the cigar is very crisp. Hay, peanuts, and white pepper are the first thing that come to mind. No doubt that the wrapper is delivering the peanut scent when giving the outside of the cigar a good whiff. Cutting the cigar was very clean due to the spongey nature of the tapered cap. The cold draw was consistent with the smell of the foot but added a little more complexity. Peanuts, cedar, and grass were present. The wrapper had a faint sweetness to it and can be described as savory, which is very unlike a shade grown cigar

FIRST THIRD

Lighting the cigar was nice and easy, even with the wind factor. The first few puffs were very flavorful, and the easy draw made for a good smoke output. Overall, the first third was medium bodied with flavors of white pepper, wood, and grass taking the stage. Hints of nuts and cedar still lingered in the background. On the retrohale, I got a little more strength than I was expecting and added a little hint of citrus to the finish.

SECOND THIRD

During the second third of the cigar, I was greeted with a smooth transition into creaminess. The strength mellowed out to light to medium and the smoke coated the mouth nicely. With lingering sweetness, peanuts and white pepper take the stage while a creamy hint of lemongrass finished things off. The burn only required a few small touch ups which was impressive given the decent amount of wind it had to withstand. The ash remained sturdy and never got flaky. I only had to ash it when I felt it was time.

FINAL THIRD

The final third reverted to nearly the same taste as the beginning of the cigar. Grass and white pepper were present until the end with a nice peanut finish. A mild sweetness was still faint but present nonetheless.

Overall, the construction was great: no cracking or uneven burning. Usually torpedoes tend to spit out the filler towards the end, not this time. Everything stayed together nicely and made for a consistent smoke with enough flavor variants to keep me intrigued.

I would like to note the wrapper as a great selling point. I do not see someone walking by this one on the shelf without picking it up, looking at it shine, and admiring the vein structure. With the current surge of Connecticut River Valley tobacco, I see this cigar as a must have due to the price point and complexity. If you want to experience a more flavorful Connecticut, do yourself a favor and light this one up!

A Note to Retailers:
I would like to note the wrapper as a great selling point. I do not see someone walking by this one on the shelf without picking it up, looking at it shine, and admiring the vein structure. With the current surge of Connecticut River Valley tobacco, I see this cigar as a must-have due to the price point and complexity.

About Nikolaos Psilopoulos

Nik has been working on the retail side of the cigar industry for 5 years. The past 3 years his palette has been experienced enough to formally taste and review cigars for your reading pleasure. At El Reloj he is running our factory store and giving tours. He is a Certified Retail Tobacconist with the PCA’s educational resource, Tobacconist University. You can expect him to further his tobacco knowledge with us at J.C. Newman and encourages visitors to ask all the questions that come to mind.

Outside of the world of cigars, you can find him enjoying the great outdoors or participating in dog sports with his Australian Shepherd.

Nik and Holden

Nik and Holden

New Faces For Our New Face

As we gear up to open up El Reloj to the public, we needed to bring on some new employees. At J.C. Newman Cigar Co., our employee is our family, and so we approached these new hires with real purpose. Nikolaos H Psilopoulos and Holden Campbell Rasmussen each bring strengths to our company, and we could not be more excited to have them join.

Nikolaos, or ‘Nik’ brings with him an extensive knowledge of tobacco. As a certified tobacconist Nik will be running the entire retail portion of our new museum and factory experience. If you’re looking for a cigar recommendation, or a keepsake, Nik is your guy. Nik will also be instrumental in the tobacco experiences in the factory, leading tours and classes when you book them in advance.

Holden will be helpful not only in our retail space, but also in the continuation of our museum curation. History is always in the past, and as soon as our museum opens, much of the information will be dated. Holden will assist us in keeping the information up to-date, as well as archiving pieces of history we simply could not fit into the museum. With a plethora of cigar boxes, newspaper articles, and cigar labels and bands from the last 125 years, we’ll look to Holden to continue to chronicle our family history.

Learn more about Nik and Holden below!

 

Nik Psilopoulos

IG: @localareanetwork813

When Nik isn’t smoking a Julius Caeser Corona or  Don Carlos #4, he’s herding sheep with his Australian Shepherds.

If you visit him at the J.C Newman Cigar Company factory store and decide to smoke a cigar, he may even show you his coolest trick: perfectly cutting a cigar with his eyes closed.

A few other fun facts about Nik:

Favorite Place to Travel: Blue Ridge Mountains.

Favorite Thing About Cigar History: The ecology behind growing tobacco.

5 Things You’d Take on a Deserted Island: Cigars, dogs, truck, fruit, and probably books because the batteries don’t die.

Only dead fish swim with the stream.” – Malcolm Muggeridge

Holden Rasmussen

Holden is a true cigar enthusiast. His favorite thing about cigar history is how it has made Tampa, Florida the city it is today.

Holden listens to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers while smoking an Alcazar No. 4. Something that may delight all American’s about Holden is that he’s related to our first President George Washington.

Here are some other fun facts about Holden:

Favorite Place to Travel: Norway

5 Things He’d Take on a Deserted Island: A rooster, a hen, a bible, a ladder, and a rubber duck.

Most Interesting Moment: Shaking hands with the ambassador from Mongolia at a dinner party

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.” – Winston Churchill

The Women Behind the Cigars

The Women Behind the Cigars

Hannah Newman: J.C.’s Mother and Bank-roller  

Julius Caeser “J.C.” Newman was born in Austria, Hungary in 1875. But that is not really where his story begins.

When the Newman family settled in Cleveland, it was time to embark on “The American Dream” and start earning a living. J.C.’s brothers became tailors and insurance salesmen, but he wanted to become a cigar maker. Though he spoke no English, he learned to recognize the words ‘Help Wanted’ and saw a sign in a cigar shop in 1892. Unfortunately, it was more like an “internship” than a job. He asked his mom for some money to study at the shop as an apprentice, and she gave it to him.

After a few years of practice and perfecting the trade, he was ready. He didn’t have a job but he had a skill. So Hannah stepped in again. She went to the grocery store where she shopped every week and made a deal with their grocer. Through this exchange, she secured an order for him for 500 cigars, and he was in business – inside the house. But not for long. In J.C.’s autobiography Smoke Dreams, he talks about his mother “giving him the boot.”

 “…I moved into the house and stored the tobacco in the basement, where the family canned goods were also stored. This turned out to be rather impractical since my mother discovered that her home-made canned goods and jellies were acquiring a strong tobacco flavor.”

She promptly kicked him out and he moved his business into a new building for a $20 a month rent. And thus, the J.C. Newman Cigar Company was born.

Ms. Katherine White: An Important Cog in

the Newman Cigar Machine

Hannah wasn’t the only woman that deserves credit for the growth of J.C. Newman Cigar Company…

As business grew for J.C. in the early 1900s, so did the workload. He placed an advertisement in the paper, searching for a combination bookkeeper and stenographer and ultimately hired a young woman named Katherine White. She had been a schoolteacher in a small town and had moved to the city of Cleveland in search of a more attractive, fun-filled life.

J.C. made her a generous offer – $10 a week, with a promised raise in two-weeks’ time if she proved herself. She proved herself, and some. That two-week time frame came with a monetary raise, as well as a title raise: she was named ‘Manager’ AND ‘Financial Secretary.’ In fact, J.C. trusted her so much that if anyone in the office needed money – including himself – they would need to get the official sign-off from her.

Ms. White was a smart, and sophisticated woman, who carried a gun for protection and became more efficient with each passing year. In his book, J.C. writes, “I sometimes wondered which one of us was really the boss, since I always reported to her…to this day, I owe much of our success to her pioneer effort and ability.”

 

Gladys Pollasky: A Partner in Love and Business

The dedication page in J.C.’s novel says it all. “I dedicate this book to my wife, Gladys – whose understanding and inspiration made the writing of this story of my life possible.”

J.C. was struck by her from the start. “I made up my mind that I had better get busy quick, and land that girl [before she] had a chance to get too well acquainted with too many competitors.”

Throughout the book, J.C. makes note of the kind of partner Gladys was. She was instrumental in hosting important members of the tobacco industry, throwing parties for members of organizations like the National Association of Tobacco Distributors (NATD), which ultimately helped J.C. purchase tobacco at a cheaper rate to stay in business. She also took the lead in creating an Auxiliary Convention for the wives of the NATD members so they could accompany their husbands to big meetings. This eventually led to the “Women’s Division of The National Association of Tobacco Distributors.” For many years she was the President and Director, all while being a mother to Helen, Elaine, Millard, Stanford.

Women in the Background

Third Generation Owner, President and J.C.’s grandson Eric Newman has said on more than one occasion that the company would simply cease to exist without the women who work there. The finance, HR, shipping, marketing, inside sales, and military departments are heavily comprised of (if not run by) women.

The initials ‘J.C.’ might be at the start of the company name, but without his mother, his bookkeeper, his wife and the amazing staff of women who work at J.C. Newman Cigar Company today, no one would be enjoying our amazing cigars.

2019 Cigar Industry Awards

2019 Cigar Industry Awards

January is a very exciting time of year for the cigar industry, and especially for J.C. Newman this year!

Not only does January kick off the celebration of our 125th year as a company, but it is also the month when industry publications reveal their awards for the previous year – in this case, 2019.

As we embark on 2020, here are the awards that J.C. Newman has been honored to receive. A huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has taken the time to smoke our new creations like The American, as well as our cigars that are tried and true. As America’s oldest, family-owned, premium cigar maker, we strive to bring quality products to market time, and time again.

The American

J.C. Newman Cigar Co.

Diamond Crown No. 6

Diamond Crown No. 3

Black Diamond Radiant 
1908 Tobacco Leaf Full Issue

1908 Tobacco Leaf Full Issue

As J.C. Newman continues to archive old documents, cigar boxes, and pieces of history for the newly renovated museum, there are many artifacts worth sharing. One such piece is an issue of the publication ‘The Tobacco Leaf,’ from February 20, 1908. This issue contains many J.C. Newman features, including an advertisement for The American cigar, pictured above. 

What’s most notable about each of the artifacts we are archiving is how J.C. Newman Cigar Co. has created such a legacy. The pre-World War I era was truly the “Heyday of Cigars,” and all 42,000 cigar manufacturers were hustling to compete. Today, every single one of the cigar manufacturers who advertised in this 1908 trade journal is out of business – all but one: J.C. Newman.

Read about each of the features of this issue below, and click the button at the bottom to download the full edition.

Features

  • Page 8: A piece on Fred Thrall, a Connecticut farmer whose descendants sell J.C. Newman the Connecticut Shade we use for Brick House Double Connecticut.
  • Page 38: A piece on a company called “Klafter and Sauber” and their distribution of “Judge Wright, of the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. cigars.”  This is J.C. Newman’s oldest customer, Klafter’s, and is still run by Sam Klafter’s descendants today. This partnership has lasted over 112 years.
  • Page 38 Continuation: The author writes, “J. C. Newman, of the J. C. Newman Cigar Co., is invading the far West territory. He went out on a trip that will last about four weeks. He has more than one brand to show, but he will devote his attention principally to Judge Wright, a nickel brand, which he is making his leader. “J. C.” is an industrious young man, and he succeeded in making this brand well known in this and neighboring States. It can be taken for granted therefore that the Judge Wright will be come well known in that part of the country that he is exploiting now for the first time.
  • Page 41: An ad for The American – with the same seal that we use today.
  • Page 45: An ad for Judge Wright cigars.
Smoking with Pride

Smoking with Pride

My very first experience with cigars was at the ripe age of 18 at a high school graduation. As the boys who were becoming men gathered around in their caps and gowns to light up their first cigars, I refused to sit by and watch. With a very ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ attitude, I approached the young men, grabbed a small, light cigar that I’d eventually come to know as “infused,” and let one of the nearby adults – the real adults –  show me how to cut and light.

With each puff I grew more and more fond, and as with everything else in life as I grew up, my palate changed. I began gravitating towards darker cigars, stronger cigars, thicker cigars. Before long, I was the aficionado amongst my group of friends – a rarity at my small, private college. It was a mixture of luck, passion, and a great friend that I came to work at J.C. Newman, and my time here has brought me nothing but pride.

Accepting a digital marketing role at J.C. Newman was a dream come true; but not just because of the cigars. My interview for the role was conducted by three women. The second interview was conducted by an additional two; I realized the people I’d be working directly under would be women. I had attended an all-girls high school, had joined a sorority in college, and admired my mother – a beautifully strong woman with an even stronger sense of will. Working under women was an absolute goal of mine, and if the cigars weren’t enough of a draw, the management certainly was.

and if the cigars weren’t enough of a draw, the management certainly was.

I graciously accepted, and only after my first few days flipping through old biographies, did I realize the importance of women in the history of J.C. Newman.

Julius Caeser Newman was a brilliant and talented cigar maker. His mother however, played a crucial role in getting him his first cigar order.

Stanford Newman’s wife Elaine wore the pants in the relationship, by his own omission in his biography Cigar Family.

Aimee Cooks has been the HR and QA manager here for 30 years.

Eric Newman, a man I admire has said more than once, that our company would cease to exist without women. The ownership of this company recognizing the female contributions; also a dream come true.

I have never worked in such an environment. I am respected, and I am heard, and I am never asked if I need help with my cigar; invaluable.

J.C. Newman, and the Newman family, are champions for women, and I could not be more proud to work for such an incredible company with such a strong history, reputation, and dedication to making quality cigars.