Cigar Lifestyle

The Cigar Advisor Playlist: Vol. 11

Volume to 11 - Cigar Advisor Playlist Vol. 11

Our Cigar Advisor Playlist finally goes to eleven. Nigel would be proud! If you’ve just stumbled across this feature for the first time, Playlist is not your typical cigar review. Along with a cigar, each of us choose a song that we think plays along well, matching it with a cigar’s flavors, complexity, or even just an overall mood it puts us in. Those who wish to take their relaxation to the next level will find a welcome home here.

This month, we sat down (socially responsibly, of course) with Jose Blanco, of Arturo Fuente. He’s one of the world’s foremost authorities on tobacco and premium cigars, and it seems he’s got himself a good ear to boot.

Whether you follow along in the article or download our official (and FREE) Spotify playlist, we hope that this feature adds more value to your smoking experience.

Do you have a perfect cigar and song match? Tell us about it in the comments below, and if we love it, we just might use it in an upcoming volume of Cigar Advisor Playlist.

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“My Way” – Frank Sinatra

Album: Blue Lace
Release Year: 1968
Genre: Traditional Pop

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos

Size: Robusto (5 x 50)Strength: Full
Wrapper: African Cameroon
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic

About the Cigar:

Opus X might get all the headlines, but Don Carlos is just as good – if not better – without the added problem of rarity. The blend is salty-sweet with notes of cedar, light spices, earth, and even traces of vanilla. It’s proof that you don’t need to seek out the rarest of the rare to find a Fuente that’s worth your while.

Why They Pair Well:

The cigar would be Don Carlos’ personal blend. Of course, the song is one of my all-time favorites: “My Way”, by Sinatra, of course. On a side note, it’s the only song I’ll do Karaoke! I choose this song remembering Don Carlos, because in a very unique way, his success, and the family…was his way! He always persevered!

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“Safari Song”Greta Van Fleet

Album: From the Fires
Release Year: 2017
Genre: Rock

Aganorsa Leaf Corojo (Miami)

Size: Robusto (5” x 52)
Strength: Medium Plus/Full
Wrapper: Nicaragua Corojo ‘99
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Aganorsa Corojo is all about dark, balanced flavors. Sweet spices, a hint of citrus, wood, nuts, and a buttery smoothness all work in tandem. The blend is paced both fast and slow (more about that below) with dense, aromatic smoke. But it doesn’t cross the line into overkill. And that’s because their Corojo ‘99/Nicaraguan core format is one Aganorsa uses often…they’re in familiar waters. I’m always impressed that they’re able to have such diversity in flavors with so many blends that are similar on paper. They’ve found a niche that they know how to tweak, and it shows in their results. And the construction…beautifully rolled.

Then there’s the price – tucked comfortably below the $10 barrier. You could easily pay more for a cigar like this. And I’ve paid much greater sums just to be disappointed. It’s a great value no matter how long you’ve been in the smoking game.

Aganorsa Leaf Corojo will likely be an easy transition into full-bodied territory for anyone who’s ready to step up without going hardcore. Basically, it’s got old-school Corojo mojo without the unwanted kick in the teeth.

No, this isn’t a lost Zeppelin B side, it’s Greta Van Fleet. Don’t feel bad, I did a double take, too. And the Greta bunch have put a lot of effort into mirroring that sound…even if they’re not directly admitting it. But if we’re honest, we’d rather entertain a Zep clone before the endless list of bullshit dominating the airwaves. (I’m looking at you, Selena Gomez). Where “Safari Song” and Aganorsa meet are their tempos. On the surface, they both seem to be quite fast in their pacing, but they also have an ability to slow down the moment. It’s like rewinding the clock a little bit each time you light – and turn – up.

With the season kicking into high gear, this is an opportunity to get out on the road, roll the windows down, and let your free hand ride the wind. And you’ll probably end up in the next state before you realize what’s happened. Best fill up on gas first.

The record’s flush with other tunes that will have you swearing Robert Plant has made a comeback. Notably, “Black Smoke Rising,” which is a solid runner up to pair with this Aganorsa treat. Bottom line: if you’re looking for a throwback both in sound and flavor, these will do it for you.

Cigar advisor Playlist pairing cigars and music Track 43 banner John’s Pick

“Working Man” – Rush

Album: Rush
Release Year: 1974
Genre: Rock

Punch Knuckle Buster

Size: Gordo (6 ¼” x 60)Strength: Medium-plus
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
Filler: Honduras and Nicaragua Habano

Supposedly there’s a college basketball tie in to how this cigar got its name. None of that matters – the real story here is that Punch has rolled a relaxing blend made to soothe the after-work beast. And it’s a cheap date, too.

Let’s get the price thing out of the way first: Knuckle Buster is cheap. Relatively speaking, that is – Punch calls it their “value priced” cigar “for the working man,” because 5-ish bucks is apparently the “value pricing” threshold for budget-minded working people these days. But you wouldn’t know by looking at it, as the oily Habano wrapper looks nicer than the rest of the everyday burns in the bargain bin.

But how’s it taste?

Punch is clearly jockeying for a spot on one of our next “cigars under $5” update. Knuckle Buster’s tangy start turns into a Habano highlight reel: earth, nuts and pepper, with a long-running sweetness.

Oh, and the brass knuckles on the band? It’s a trap. Don’t fall for it. The Knuckle Buster is more of what we called “an everyday kick”: smooth in body, medium in strength and just pretty dang approachable overall.

I don’t always listen to Rush. But when I do, so does the whole neighborhood.

And with drummer Neil Peart dying earlier this year, a proper tipping of my cap to the Professor could have come with “La Villa Strangiato” or a start-to-finish rendition of the 2112 Overture for this Playlist. But the Punch Knuckle Buster is a working man’s smoke – so it’s back to the first Rush album we go, recorded with founding drummer John Rutsey.

Cause I get home at five o’clock
And I take myself out an ice cold beer
Always seem to be wonderin’
Why there’s nothin’ goin’ down here

This is the guy who ungloriously works his ass off; the benefits are few and far between, so even the little rewards – like a beer after work – are a big deal. Or in our case, a cigar. Sure, we can relate.

So why do the song and the smoke pair so well? Well, even beyond the blue collar cliché, two things…first, it’s partway through the cigar that the flavor just takes off: once the tangy-sweet flavors burn off, rich jabs of pepper, earth and caramel – plus a spicy retrohale – grab your taste buds and make a run for it.

So does the song, double timing the beat under Alex Lifeson in full shred, before cooling things off and bringing you back to earth.

The second common thread here is economy. That’s a lot of power coming from just 3 guys, making a huge and forceful sound. Comparatively, Punch twists the flavor dial to its highest setting, but without removing more than five dollars from your wallet.

I’ve heard Rush described as “the anchovies of rock music…loved by a select few, hated by many.” But in truth, their 1974 debut album landed just as heavy and loud as anything Zeppelin or Sabbath could do – so don’t tell me Rush can’t rock. (No, YOU shut up.) People have been blazing a LOT of things while listening to this record over the years, and it’s appropriate that we add Punch Knuckle Buster to this list.

Cigar advisor Playlist pairing cigars and music Track 44 banner Gary’s Pick

“Quiet Afternoon” – Stanley Clarke

Album : School Days
Release Year: 1976
Genre: Jazz Fusion

C.L.E. Azabache Robusto

Size: (5” x 50 trunk pressed)Strength: Medium-plus
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Binder: Honduras
Filler: Honduras, Peru, Nicaragua

C.L.E. Azabache is a full-flavored, medium-plus blend, named for a jet-black gemstone which is regarded as a good luck charm in Honduras. And although Christian Eiroa is known for making some of the best Honduran puros, for Azabache he uses a four nation blend rolled in an inky Mexican San Andrés wrapper, then squeezes it to a virtual wafer-like shape. At a glance, you might even mistake it for a fancy chocolate bar. But it’s what happens when you light it that really makes this oily vitola come alive.

The flavors serve up a dynamic mix of earth, leather, wood, nuts, coffee, sweet spices, and a smack of red pepper on the finish that’s impressively forgiving. Some citrus and dark chocolatey notes greet you along the way, but overall, a well-balanced and surprisingly soothing smoke perfect for enjoying on a quiet afternoon.

The song’s title alone makes you think about one of the best times to kick back and relax with a good cigar. And, as a solely aesthetic aside, the flat surface on the Azabache’s obsidian-colored maduro wrapper is evocative of the ebony wood fretboard on Stanley Clarke’s bass. Although the song opens with a light and airy melody provided, the same can’t be said for the Azabache, which opens with a spicy flourish. It’s almost as if the song and the cigar are moving in opposite directions until the song reaches the second chorus in which all the instruments are in the mix. That’s the point where the cigar and the song meet to begin their dance as the song yields to the “solo” section. Here, too, the Azabache obliges as its own set of notes ripple along in sumptuous contrast, before resigning themselves to the song’s breezy, recurrent verse.