REVIEW: Cuesta-Rey Centro Fino No. 60

REVIEW: Cuesta-Rey Centro Fino No. 60

Brand: Cuesta-Rey Centro Fino #60
Size: Toro (6” x 50)
Factory: Tabacalera A. Fuente
Wrapper: Sumatra Sungrown
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican

The brand Cuesta-Rey has such rich history. The brand started in 1884 by Angel LaMadrid Cuesta and eventually received the title; “Tobacco Purveyor for the Spanish King and Court”.

Cuesta-Rey cigars have always been associated with premium quality. When Stanford Newman acquired the brand in 1958, he made sure that it remained premium. To this day Cuesta-Rey Cigars are recognized internationally as some of the best cigars in the world. The cigar that I will be reviewing today is from the Centro Fino line of Cuesta-Rey. Centro Fino refers to the center of the tobacco plant, where the leaves are most consistent and rich. The Sungrown Sumatra wrapper is primed from that area of the plant, where the tobacco is most flavorful. Underneath a Dominican binder, a special blend of Dominican Ligero delivers body and strength. This cigar is blended with the intent to be packed with flavor without being too dark or strong. Cuesta-Rey is 136 years old and the Centro Fino is the newest addition to the brand. I am interested in how a brand this old stays relevant in an ever-changing industry.

PRE-LIGHT

The Cuesta-Rey Centro Fino is a visually stimulating cigar. The dark reddish wrapper is complimented by burgundy on the first and secondary band. There is also burgundy on the box surrounding Sally who is also pictured on the band.

The packaging is old school and pays homage to the vintage feel of the Cuesta-Rey brand. The cigar itself has good vein structure and a dark rosado tone to the wrapper. The cigar is very oily, and the wrapper has a nice texture. When squeezed, the cigar has a little give. I cannot find any holes or imperfections in the construction. I cut it a few times with a shallow guillotine to get through the sturdy cap for a perfect cut.

The wrapper delivers a sweet and salty taste in the cold draw. There are also some coffee and nutty tones coming from the foot of the cigar. The cold draw seems to stimulate the entire tongue, particularly the areas that deal with sweetness and saltiness. Before even lighting the cigar, I am getting a lot of flavor, and can’t wait to light it up!

FIRST THIRD

Lighting the cigar was especially easy. The foot is easily toasted and develops an even circle even before I take a puff with the torch on the end. The initial flavors I get are earth, coffee, raw cocoa, and a bit of woodiness. This flavor is encased in a sweet and salty package. It leaves the tip on my tongue tingling afterwards.

The amount of smoke coming from the foot is significant. Smelling the smoke delivers a good whiff of mostly damp leather. Everything is very rich and oily. The burn is nice and even which is to be expected based on how the cigar lit. The draw is rather perfect. A double puff gives the cigar a little spice and a minimal bite. S

So far, I am finding the cigar to me very medium in flavor and intensity. The smoke is easily retrohaled in the first third and the flavor stays consisted through the nose. The ash is a slightly darker grey color and has a nice, sturdy formation. I ashed the cigar right before the end of this portion and had to touch up the burn on one side. This isn’t uncommon for such an oily cigar. My impressions after the first portion of this cigar are positive. Most notably I am impressed with how smooth yet flavorful the cigar is.

 

SECOND THIRD

Entering the second third of the cigar I notice a smooth transition into a slightly different experience. The most drastic change would be the sweetness dissipating slightly. Nuts, coffee, and raw cocoa are the main components. There is still a bit of savory, saltiness to be had while smoking and on the finish. The strength has become medium to full, with the flavor remaining medium. Retrohaling is still a treat during this portion of the cigar although there is a bit more intensity that leaves my nose tingling. I am a fan of this change although it is rare that a cigar is stronger during the second third. I’d also like to note that the transition was on the slower side; it wasn’t shocking when the change was noticed.

The ash holds true to the same standards as the previous portion. The burn remained even throughout the entirety of the second third. The draw seemed to remain perfect according to my standards. The burn rate is also a worthy mention. So far it is burning just slow enough to keep everything fresh and burning at a cooler temperature.

FINAL THIRD

During the start of the final third of this cigar I am noticing only a slight difference between the first third. The flavor was nearly identical with earthy coffee and nutty cocoa being the foreground of the flavor. There are also hints of leather and wood lingering in the background. The sweet and saltiness on the other hand, have become very faint. It is not bitter, but the tanginess has nearly dissipated. I find there to still be some saltiness here and there which keeps the front portion of my tongue stimulated.

The burn required no touch ups during the final third. A razor-sharp burn has kept everything even and pleasant until the very end. The draw has stayed the same and the smoke output fills the room with damp smoke. All these contributions make for a very enjoyable experience until the very end.

The Cuesta-Rey brand is so full of history. It all started in 1884, making the brand 136 years old. I can’t think of any other brand that has remained relevant in the market for so long. The Centro Fino Sungrown was the most recent addition and I think it holds up to any other comparable cigar in today’s day and age. The cigar starts out medium, then slowly ramps up the intensity, and then mellows out at the end. I find this to be a perfect execution of the smoking experience. The sweet and salty flavor coming from the wrapper is unique. I can’t think of any other cigar that mimics this even remotely. It just reinforces my belief that J.C. Newman Cigar Company has a vast portfolio, with a cigar out there for everyone.

A Note to Retailers:

Although the Cuesta-Rey Centro Fino line only has three facings, it is packaged in a single row of ten cigars. This means that it will still take up enough space to catch the eye of the customer. The dark red boxes compliment the dark brownish red wrapper. I think it looks great on the shelf. One of the advantages of selling Cuesta-Rey Centro Fino and Centenario is that they come in boxes of ten. This means that it is an affordable box for any customer. The retail falls fairly below the $100 mark. Whether you are having a small gathering or need some variety in your humidor, you will find that the Cuesta-Rey Centro Fino fits the bill (literally).

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 Maduro #4

REVIEW: Diamond Crown Maduro #4

Brand: Diamond Crown Maduro #4
Size: Corona (5 1/2” x 54)
Factory: Tabacalera A. Fuente
Wrapper: Connecticut Shade
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Central American & Caribbean Basin

At the dawn of the cigar industry, the market was flooded with smaller cigars: small perfectos, coronas, lanceros, and lonsdales.  This is in stark contrast to today’s market, in which the most common size is the toro. Stanford Newman being very progressive, released the Diamond Crown brand in 1995 which offered several vitolas that were all 54 64ths of an inch in diameter. This was considered a very thick cigar for its time. His logic was that he could blend 5 different filler leaves to make a very complex, enjoyable cigar with more depth.

What also set Diamond Crown aside from the rest was that it used a double cured US Connecticut shade wrapper. The second curing refined the tobacco and gave it impeccably consistent color and quality. Even though it was so different, the Diamond Crown paved the way for thicker cigars and pushed the entire industry to make larger cigars. Diamond Crown was such a hit that it was only available on the west coast during its initial release. The release party was held in Beverly Hills in 1995 during the peak of the cigar boom, a time when everyone smoked cigars. A few years later J.C. Newman Cigar Co added the Connecticut Broadleaf version of the Diamond Crown Classic.

Since then, the Diamond Crown brand has maintained its stance in the luxury category of the cigar industry.

PRE-LIGHT

The Diamond Crown Maduro #4 lays horizontally in its box on the shelf; a somewhat rare presentation that makes it stand out amongst other brands in a humidor. The dark Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper mixed with the mostly gold and red band give me the impression of luxury. Black and gold just screams casino high roller in my mind.

The wrapper itself is oily and toothy. The cigar is neatly made with no imperfections in the roll to be found. The cigar is firm, no holes and very slight give when squeezed. Cutting the cigar required a little bit of force as the wrapper is very heavy and thick. The cap holds up nicely to a good ol’ guillotine cut: a classic cut for a classic cigar seems fitting.

Upon smelling the foot, I pick up a good bit of hay and pepper. It is not very dark on the nose; I find it to be crisp. The wrapper itself smells like dark cocoa. The cold draw leaves me lapping up flavors of sweet earth and leather. There is a little tingle of pepper on the finish of the cold draw. The Diamond Crown Maduro makes a great first impression and seems to pamper your palette right off the bat.

FIRST THIRD

The 54-ring gauge on this cigar requires a generous amount of fire but lights very evenly. The draw is the first thing that stands out to me; it is perfect. There is a just the right amount of resistance and a nice double puff reveals a thick, pungent smoke.

There are hints of earth, pepper, leather, and hay. The pepper and earth dominate the first third of the cigar yet there is a good bit of sweetness on the finish. The bouquet off the foot is particularly nostalgic for me. It reminds me of the cigars my father would smoke when I was too young to smoke myself. It fills the area with damp, dark and earthy smoke.

Right from the get-go the cigar is burning perfectly leaving behind a solid white and toothy ash. I find it very pleasing to look at a dark cigar with a white ash. Retrohaling the cigar is a little too much for me at first but by the end of the first third I find starting to mellow out slightly. The strength is medium to full and I find the flavor to be full in this portion. So far, the experience has held up and remained luxurious during the first third of smoking the Diamond Crown Maduro #4.

SECOND THIRD

As I enter the second third of the cigar, I find that the pepper is a little less prominent. I also can once again find that dark cocoa from the wrapper in the flavor profile. Earth, pepper, and dark cocoa are delivered in a leathery package. I find the strength to now be medium while still being full in flavor.

The burn has remained straight as an arrow with no touch ups from a torch required. About halfway through the second third of the cigar is when I decide to part ways with the ash which was still firmly attached to the cigar. The draw has not changed at all, it is still perfect. The retrohale is a lot smoother than it was in the previous portion, allowing me to pick up on all the flavors and intensity. Sweet, black pepper is smooth and noticeable.

The complexity and balance are my favorite parts of this portion of the cigar. There is a lot to be had in this finely aged maduro.

FINAL THIRD

The final third of the cigar seems to change a lot. Sweet leather takes the stage while cocoa and earth maintain the finish. The retrohale remains smooth in the portion and is the source of the black pepper. Though the final third has less bite than both the first and second third it has remained complex. Usually if the cigar has lost its bite, I want to put it down. However, there is still a lot to be enjoyed smoking it down to the nub.

I have not touched up the burn even after ashing it a second time during its final third. The draw is still the same and it’s still burning at just the right rate and temperature. Even with a 54 ring gauge burning, it’s still pleasant to smoke. I decide to put it down with just an inch remaining.

The final smoke time on all three smoked for this review is an hour and thirty minutes. Upon laying this down in an ashtray I am fulfilled with no bitterness or acrid remnants of flavor. This is a true sign of a premium maduro cigar.

Reflecting on the Diamond Crown Maduro #4 I am still left with the impression of luxury. The first third is intriguing, the second third is flavorful, and the finish is smooth and complex. These are the true makings of a super-premium cigar. The Diamond Crown brand is J.C. Newman’s luxury line. From the cigars to the accessories, everything is luxurious and made with quality in mind. The rollers at Tabacalera A. Fuente that craft these fine cigars are paid a fixed rate. This is to ensure that their goal is to make the best cigars rather than the most cigars. I can attest to this fact for there are no imperfections found in this cigar. Whether you are enjoying a night on the town or a 5-star dinner, the Diamond Crown Maduro #4 will sure compliment your evening.

A Note to Retailers:

I would like retailers to educate customers on the Diamond Crown line paving the way for bigger ring gauges on the market. These cigars are the reason we have cigars bigger than 50 64ths of an inch in diameter. In 1995 this was a monumental release and because of its thicker size, it had more complexity. Let the consumer know that this cigar changed the cigar industry!

It also comes in a box of 15 which is better for smaller events in some cases. Usually super premium cigars come in boxes of 20, which has a higher price tag. Since the Diamond Crown classic line is offered in smaller boxes, it does not make as much of a dent in the wallet. Not only can you find this cigar singularly or in a box, you can find it in our Toro Family Sampler. Not only will you find a Diamond Crown Maduro #4 in the sampler, you will also find other members of the Diamond Crown family. I find this to be the best way to find the luxury cigar your palette desires.

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: Julius Caeser Corona

REVIEW: Julius Caeser Corona

Brand: Diamond Crown Julius Caeser
Size: Corona (5” x 43)
Factory: Tabacalera A. Fuente
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Havana
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Central American & Caribbean Basin

In 1890 our company’s founder arrived in America from Austria-Hungary in search of the American dream. With no middle name, the immigration officer figured he would take the liberty of naming young Julius. From that day forward he would be known as Julius Caeser Newman. J.C. was a small statured man. Giving him a big man’s name was ironic without a doubt. The spelling error is the fault of the immigration officer and has become part of the character of the company.

J.C. passed away in 1958. Hi grandchildren, Eric and Bobby Newman now run the company he started in 1895. To commemorate the company’s 115th anniversary and what would have been J.C.’s 135th birthday, they made a cigar to honor him: the Julius Caeser.

This cigar is offered in 6 different sizes now, not including the 1895 Perfecto size, which is exclusive to Diamond Crown lounges. Made at the Fuente factory in the Dominican Republic, the Julius Caeser has won over the palettes of consumers from all over the world. Due to the skilled blending of the Newman’s and the craftsmanship of the Fuente’s; this cigar has been highly rated, in the top 25 cigars of the year by Cigar Aficionado multiple times and was cigar of the year by Cigars & Spirits in 2017.

PRE-LIGHT

Only one word can describe the Julius Caeser as it sits on the shelf: luxury. The boxes are covered in black leather the purple felt covers the inside of the box and lid. Gold lettering to indicate brand and size really stand out and add to the high-end appearance. The art on the band and inside of the lid depict the Roman emperor, Julius Caesar but instead of his face, it is our very own Julius Caeser. Teal, gold, purple, and white all mesh together nicely on the band. Compared to all other vitolas, the corona stands out.

The wrapper is dark and noticeably toothy. This is an indication that the leaf is from a higher priming on the tobacco plant. While the other six sizes are a medium brown color, the corona is black. Darker than a maduro, you could call it oscuro.

Upon smelling the foot, I pick up on obvious hints of coffee bean, milk chocolate, and a touch of hay. The cigar is very firm when squeezed and is uncompromised by a straight cut. The cold draw shows an easy pull and gives me a taste of nutty coffee with a slight lingering sweetness. All things considered, I can tell that this cigar is very refined and aged well. I am looking forward to taking my time and enjoying this cigar in its entirety, both aesthetically and flavor wise.

FIRST THIRD

As soon as I touched the foot of the cigar with the torch I was greeted with an earthy, hazelnut laden smoke. Once it was toasted up, I was able to retrohale the first puff while finishing the lighting process. This revealed hints of nuts, earth, and coffee. There is a slight sweetness coming from the taste of the wrapper. Flavor and strength are both medium, although when I retrohale the strength is easily medium-full.

The texture of the smoke is thick, but I would not describe it as creamy. The ash has a dark grey color and holds itself together nicely. The burn is good, a few curves develop but after a few minutes it evens out naturally. By the end of the first third some leathery flavor enters the mix. Overall, the first third of the Julius Caeser corona has a lot of flavor and strength. Nuttiness dominated this portion of the cigar with coffee being the second most dominating flavor. At the end of the first third I knock off the ash and get ready for what’s next.

SECOND THIRD

The first few puffs of the second third reveal minor differences. Coffee and nuts equal out in presence while earth and leather are most noticeable on the finish. The retrohale also becomes less strong, falling into the medium strength category. This makes everything medium throughout the cigar. The burn stays even while the ash lightens up to a solid grey. There is no flakiness or instability with the ash. I would have to say that the smoke is very thick and laden with coffee. The bouquet off the foot is one hundred percent earth and coffee. I am enjoying smelling the smoke just as much as I am puffing on this cigar.

By the end of the second third I am impressed that these dark flavors have not become distorted or muddy. It is also worth noting that the teeth on the wrapper engage your sense of touch. I find it very rare for a medium bodied cigar, with no pepper or spice to be this toothy. The burn rate is very slow for a corona and right now I am about an hour in.

FINAL THIRD

Entering the final third of the cigar, there is no bitterness or unpleasantries. All the flavors remain clean and present. I am noticing that the earth and leather are a little more present than the coffee and nuttiness. I guess you could say the nuts and coffee are more present on the finish. The retrohale is a little stronger, reminiscent of the first third of the Julius Caeser Corona. The smoke has become a little oily as well as malty, coating the mouth nicely. Temperature wise, the cigar is just as cool as ever. At this point the cigar is about an inch long with only enjoyable attributes.

By the end of this cigar, I am very fulfilled. The flavor has been unique and intriguing. For something so medium bodied, I am very impressed with how dark everything is. By the end of this cigar, I am still savoring everything it has to offer.

As with most Diamond Crown cigars there is nothing that I can compare to the Julius Caeser. The flavor is unique, no other cigar on the market even closely resembles the flavor or smell. The Corona size has a lot more flavor than the other sizes that I have tried. The packaging is one of the most engaging parts of this cigar. I don’t know if any other cigar comes in a leather wrapped cigar box. The flavor and presentation make this stand out to the customer. The darker wrapper makes this size unique amongst the Julius Caeser line. There is plenty of uniqueness to this vitola. If you want a very premium medium bodied cigar with a lot of flavor, give the Julius Caeser Corona a try.

A Note to Retailers:

Back in the day, up until the mid to late 1990’s all cigars were a smaller ring gauge. Lonsdales, coronas, lanceros, and panatelas were the most popular. During that time period, nobody ever smoked a 6 x 60 cigar. Between the thicker and thinner sizes, you will experience more differences besides the aesthetic. The flavor varies with diameter as well. With a thicker cigar you will be smoking more filler tobacco. However, with a corona size you will get more of the wrapper flavor. That is why I appreciate this Corona size a lot. It is important to educate the consumer as to why the vitolas vary in flavor and not just smoke time. Customers may only want to smoke for 45 minutes to an hour and the best way to pack a lot of flavor into the time is to get a smaller size. I have seen a lot of customers only smoke half of a cigar because they are limited on time. Make sure you consider asking the question “how long would you like to smoke?”. That question rarely enters the customer’s mind. If they only have an hour lunch break to spare, make sure they get a whole experience out of the cigar. If they have to put a cigar out halfway, they are missing out on the final third and how the cigar finishes. It is all about education and building trust with your consumers. That way they come back time and time again, asking for a recommendation.

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: El Baton Belicoso

REVIEW: El Baton Belicoso

Brand: El Baton
Size: Belicoso (5” x 56)
Factory: J.C. Newman PENSA
Wrapper: Sungrown Sumatra
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

The El Baton was one of J.C. Newman’s first brands, launched by our founder, J.C. Newman himself. This brand was once made with Cuban tobacco and was rolled at one of our first factories in Cleveland, Ohio. Due to the Great Depression and mechanization dominating the industry, El Baton fell out of production.

J.C.’s grandchildren, Bobby and Eric Newman revived El Baton nearly 100 years later. This cigar is marketed as a full-bodied, Nicaraguan cigar. It is made at our very own PENSA factory in Estelí along with our Quorum, Perla Del Mar, and Brick House brands.

Nicaragua has some of the richest soil in the world. It is known for yielding tobacco that has a lot of flavor and a definitive bite. Nicaraguan tobacco is regularly compared to Cuban tobacco and while I do not personally find pleasure in Cuban tobacco, I imagine Nicaraguan tobacco has the soil that once made Cuba famous for cigars.

I now see Nicaragua as the epicenter for full-bodied and full-flavored cigars. If you visit Estelí you will see more factories and farms than you probably thought existed in the world.

PRE-LIGHT

The El Baton is a beautiful cigar, enclosed in attractive boxes. The inside of the lid has a black and blue gradient that highlights the name and draws you in. The silver foil lettering on the box stands out and matches the silver and blue on the band of the cigar.

The cigar itself has a very consistent dark brown color. While it is a lot lighter than a maduro wrapper, it is a lot darker than a Brick House classic. The veins are plentiful but lay rather flush with the wrapper. The texture from the leaf can be compared to a very fine sandpaper and has a good amount of oil.

Construction wise, I see no flaws. The torpedo tip is sturdy with a nice, rounded shape. The El Baton is a bit firmer than a Brick House but is built just as well. As soon as I smelled the foot of the cigar, a very noticeable whiff of sweet raisins got my attention. I went for a somewhat shallow straight cut just to see how the draw was. The cold draw was complex. I got a little bit of spice from the wrapper and sweet raisins and earth from the rest of the tobacco.

FIRST THIRD

Toasting the foot releases a good amount of pungent, flavorful smoke. I smelled leathery pepper before taking a puff. Once the lighting process was complete, all I could think was, “wow”. As in “wow, this cigar is strong”. I found the strength to be very full-bodied right off the bat. The El Baton is also full-flavored. Pepper and spice dominate the palette while leather and earthy undertones add some complexity. There was still a noticeable raisin taste during the finish, but it remained very faint in this portion of the cigar due to the strength. The burn was even and only required one touch up, which is common for a cigar with this much oil present. The ash developed a solid, dark grey color while burning straight. The draw was perfect with my shallow straight cut.

Overall, this cigar was very strong in the first third.

SECOND THIRD

During the previous portion of the cigar I was barely able to retrohale because of the intensity. Upon entering the second third I could get a good retrohale which left my nostrils tingling. This is usually either a sign of my palette adjusting or the strength toning down.

I was still finding everything to be very full in flavor and body. While the pepper seemed to die down, leather and Earth were still a big part of the flavor. The finish seemed to be a little sweeter this time around, with the same raisin taste. I found this to be the main difference between the first and second portions of the cigar.

While the flavor changed from mostly pepper to mostly spice in this portion, the intensity and strength remained the same. I am very happy that the strength did not taper off at all. I found myself experiencing the ‘wow’ factor every time I took a puff. The burn remained steadfast and required no touch ups.

FINAL THIRD

After entering the final third, I was relieved that the strength did not turn bitter or astringent. It was still cool and easy to decipher flavors. Pepper and sweet leather were the main components of the retrohale during this portion; it is interesting to taste something sweet through your nose. There was a pleasant earthy raisin on the finish. During this final third I only had to touch it up once to keep things going even until the end. Even as the burn creeped towards the cap, the ash still held itself together.

I can easily describe the final third as a smooth finish.

After smoking the El Baton, I can easily describe it as the strongest thing to come from our PENSA factory. During the duration of the cigar everything remained full in flavor and body. Although the peppery bite was the main component of the flavor throughout, I never found it to be one dimensional. The flavors did not change but their capacity and levels did. In each third I found the same hints of Pepper, spice, earth, raisins, leather, and sweetness delivered in a different package.

The burn and construction live up to the PENSA name. I am still overly impressed with the draw which is usually my gripe with anything that has a tapered cap. El Baton is very different and stands out amongst our line-up. It speaks to the fact that J.C. Newman has a cigar out there for everybody. PENSA has mild cigars like Perla Del Mar (shade), bundle cigars like Quorum, medium bodied cigars like the Brick House line, and full-bodied cigars like El Baton. A lot of brands only cater to one type of consumer, but J.C. Newman caters to all. If you like one brand/cigar that we offer, I encourage you to try them all. It gives you an idea of the wide range of cigars we have to offer.

A Note to Retailers:

I strongly encourage retailers to educate people on the El Baton whether they are a full-bodied cigar smoker or if they are stuck on one brand of stronger Nicaraguan cigars. At the same time, it is important to stress to the customer how strong this cigar is so that they do not have a bad experience and get off-put. If someone tries a cigar and has a bad experience, they are not very likely to try anything else that brand has to offer.

This is also a good cigar to pair with a beverage if your establishment has coffee or alcohol. If someone is looking to tone down the flavor and make it more manageable it would be smart to pair it with something creamy like a café con leche in order to coat the palette. They can also capitalize on this flavor and pair it with something stronger like a rye whiskey. You can get a wide range of experiences with this cigar if you just put a little thought into it. Keep the El Baton in your back pocket of knowledge when helping someone find the perfect full-bodied Nicaraguan puro!

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: 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.