Starting with La Gloria Cubana, Michael Giannini has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with many of the best people in the premium cigar business – so which cigars have had the most impact on his nearly 40-year career? Watch Michael count them back to Gary Korb in this Advisor exclusive.
2016 CA Report: Top New Releases – New Cigars of 2016
IPCPR Wrap Up: The Cigars You Need To Try
From July 24th through the 28th, the 84th installment of the IPCPR (International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association) Convention and International Trade Show hosted scores of cigar lovers, retailers, manufacturers, and tobacconists alike. If you’re unfamiliar with this event, the concept is simple: cigar, pipe, and accessory manufacturers from all corners of the industry meet up to show off their latest wares that are either in, or will be in, production this year, while retailers such as Famous Smoke Shop attend and sign contracts to bring these new and exciting brands aboard. This year alone touted over 300 companies converging in Las Vegas to interact with retailers and cigar fanatics alike, and it looks like there was a star studded crop of delectable new brands that has even the most discerning of us here at Cigar Advisor licking our chops.
Keep in mind that due to FDA legislation that was passed earlier this year, these new offerings may only be around for a limited time; more specifically a maximum of two years. That could change if these cigar manufacturers abide by FDA rulings and submit these new cigar offerings through a rigorous and expensive federally mandated testing process. We won’t know which will stay in full production in the future and which will be limited to this two year run, but as for now, these offerings will be available to consumers either immediately or in the near future. One thing is for sure – it’s well worth getting your hands on what these manufacturers are dishing out. And as a member of team Famous and Cigar Advisor, I got the firsthand account of the hottest cigars coming out of this year’s Convention. Of course with so many vendors, it’s hard to cover every single cigar, so I’m boiling my list of must-have cigars to just 10. Vanna, let’s go to the board.
Davidoff has gotten into the habit of releasing nothing but show stoppers these last few years, with offerings like the Nicaragua and Escurio driving high-end cigar lovers wild. So it comes as no surprise Davidoff wanted to continue this trend of success by releasing yet another future top 10 cigar, and by Jove I think they’ve got it. For the last 20 years, Master Blender Henke Kelner and Davidoff’s team of tobacco growers in the Yamasa region of the Dominican Republic started in on a project that would showcase this region’s intense flavors. The result is an ultra-complex peppery smoke that features earth, wood, baker’s spice, and a rich sweet tobacco flavor courtesy of a Yamasa binder and wrapper, as well as Condega and Esteli grown Nicaraguan longfillers. If you’re a fan of Davidoff or just want a cigar that’s loaded with insane flavor, this is certainly a cigar to look for in the near future.
Cohiba is another brand that has been quite active the past half-decade or so to help maintain their status as one of the top dogs in the ultra-premium market with new and exciting blends. Case in point: Cohiba Macassar. According to General Cigar Company, the inspiration behind this brand came from Macassar wood, an extremely fine and rare stunning ebony wood found deep in the Indonesian rainforests. To pay tribute to this extraordinary work of nature, Cohiba’s blenders were inspired to make a cigar with the same artistry found in the natural grain of this rare lumber. Hand-selected proprietary tobaccos are aged a minimum of 4 years before an additional year of finishing in Dominican rum barrels, with a 6 year aged Connecticut Havano wrapper grown specifically for this cigar in a unique micro climate. To complete the cigar, a Connecticut Broadleaf binder aged 6 years provides an even burn and mellow flavor to help make this complex cigar shine, with nuanced notes of wood and spice, along with the sweet and savory notes found in each of the Cohiba lines we’ve all come to love.
If you’ve never tried a Kristoff before, you might want to start with the Kristoff Pistoff. The name comes from a customer who suggested the company come out with a cigar named “The Pissed Off Kristoff.” But because of the rather abrasive nature of the name, company owner Glen Case changed the spelling and voila, the Kristoff Pistoff was born. This offering uses a spicy/sweet Mexican San Andres wrapper, Indonesian binder, and strong Nicaraguan longfillers for a smoke that is unbelievably smooth yet wildly flavorful, which typically hides its full strength profile from unsuspecting cigar smokers. Though it may be one of the strongest cigars you’ll ever smoke, it’ll be one of the most rewarding if you sit down, relax, and take your time with it. As an added bonus, the Kristoff Pistoff is a great showcase for San Andres tobacco, which has really made waves in the cigar industry as of late.
Undercrown Shade Flying Pig
The Undercrown Shade made its debut in 2015, hitting the market with a bang and receiving a big thumbs up across the board from almost every cigar reviewer who sampled this incredible line of cigars, including myself and the rest of the crew here at Cigar Advisor. Now, following Drew Estate’s current trend of blending a “Flying Pig” vitola in every line they produce, the Undercrown Shade Flying Pig was on display for the world to see, as well as a few other line extensions including a Churchill blend, tubos, and tins of 10 small cigars. Made in collaboration with Willy Herrera and Undercrown Maduro Factory, the Undercrown Shade Flying Pig features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, Sumatran binder, and Dominican ’98 as well as Nicaraguan Corojo and Criollo longfillers. The result is a smooth and enticing complex smoke with notes of rich tobacco sweetness, some light spice, light citrus, and a buttery/creamy sensation that make this fat 3 15/16 x 60 pigtailed perfecto an absolute home run. I can’t say enough good things about this incredible offering, which is sure to only continue this young line’s already realized tradition of excellence.
L’Atelier Crystal Baller 646 Box Pressed Lonsdale
Did I catch your attention with “Box Pressed Lonsdale?” Then you’re as surprised as I was when I saw this new offering by Pete Johnson’s L’Atelier line at this year’s IPCPR. Produced under L’Atelier’s Surrogates line, the Crystal Baller traces its roots to 2012, made at the My Father Factory, which became an instant hit with boutique cigar collectors across the market. But the box pressed Lonsdale brings a fresh spin on this wildly popular line. Sporting a Nicaraguan binder and longfillers as well as an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, this 6 ½ x 46 offering brings out more of the flavor held in the wrapper for a completely unique smoke, chock-full of complex notes with a medium to full bodied profile. In other words, this is yet another must-have from L’Atelier.
Aging Room Solera
Rafael Nodal only makes good cigars. It’s just a fact of life. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw his new Solera on display at this year’s show. With packaging that breaks away from the more traditional and ornate bands and boxes Aging Room is known for, this cigar simply screams “BOLD,” with a slight twist to this brand’s tried and true method of blending. Solera borrows its name from the fractional aging method used by liquor and wine manufacturers where the average age of each product gradually increases as the process continues. However instead of liquids, the aging process in the case of the Solera incorporates different tobacco vintages at different stages of the aging process to create a fuller and more complex cigar. And boy, are these some complex smokes! Made with all Dominican tobaccos with your choice of Sun Grown, Maduro, Corojo, and Shade Grown wrappers, each cigar is meant to impress with a wide range of flavors for a smoke that will keep you enthralled from start to finish.
Robert Caldwell All Out Kings
Caldwell Cigar Company was on scene this year as well, with a new blend that pleased all who stopped at their table this year called the All Out Kings. Made in conjunction with Drew Estate and utilizing master blenders from both companies, each cigar is adorned in a stalk cut and sun cured Habano wrapper from Esteli, Nicaragua. Underneath this lush wrapper is an Indonesian Sumatra binder, and longfillers from the Jalapa and Esteli regions of Nicaragua as well as a helping of Connecticut Broadleaf tobaccos and a Corojo ‘98 from the Dominican Republic. The blend is sure to create untold complexity and flavor for all who pack this amazing cigar in their humidor.
Padron Serie 1926 No. 90
We all know and love the Padron Serie 1926. This elegant cigar commemorating Jose Padron’s 75th birthday is full bodied, smooth, complex, and loaded with incredible flavors between both the Natural and Maduro lines. Now, at the 2016 IPCPR, Padron was back at it with a new line extension for this outstanding cigar dubbed the No. 90 to celebrate Jose’s 90th birthday. That’s right, the patriarch is 90 years old and only the best cigar will do to help honor this pioneer of the cigar industry. With the same flavors we’ve come to love from the 1926, the Padron Serie 1926 No. 90 comes in a 5 ½ x 50 rounded vitola, as opposed to the traditional box-pressed shape we’re used to. Though you may have tried one of the many 1926 lines already available on the market, this cigar is perfect for celebrating life’s most joyous moments, and is a perfect addition to any collector’s humidor.
San Cristobal Quintessence
If you’ve ever read any of my lists before, chances are you know of my love affair with San Cristobal. Everything they produce is remarkable, with flavor profiles that will send anyone’s palate through the stratosphere. The new San Cristobal Quintessence keeps this tradition alive with a stellar blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos from the Garcia family’s fields underneath an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, all made by the My Father factory for a smoky offering of rich woody notes and an unmistakable spicy/sweetness before transitioning into a more involved complex smoke. I’m actually smoking one as I type this, which means I feel compelled to write a full length review right now, marveling at the crisp white/grey ash and perfect burn of this top-of-the-line cigar. But for now, I’ll just say this: I would be surprised if this cigar receives a rating below a 90 in any review publication. I mean, my goodness is this ever a great cigar.
Though we are in an election year, the new Montecristo Politico that was on display at this year’s show, along with a re-release of the No. 2 in ceramic jars and Artisan Series, is anything but a reference to any political happenings of today. Instead, these cigars get their name from the decadent Dominican grown Politico tobacco grown of rare Cuban seeds that trace their roots from the 1960s where Master Blender Pepe Mendez smuggled them out of Cuba and into the D.R. to grow. The reason you’ve probably never heard of this strain of tobacco before is due to the fact that they are susceptible to catching a nasty case of blue mold in the fields, making them hard to grow and maintain. One outbreak can destroy an entire field. However, Montecristo was able to source some of this ultra-rare tobacco from Jose Mendez and Co. who started growing this strain again in the ‘90s, and with the help of Altadis’s Grupo de Maestros, blended a must-have cigar for the ages. This evenly balanced medium-bodied cigar was a hit at the show, with a lit one never hard to find on a quick glace across the floor at IPCPR. With a nutty leathery finish, and a sweet tobacco profile, this cigar promises to be a hit with consumers everywhere. It’s the perfect cigar for every smoker.
Of course there were many cigars on display in addition to the ten mentioned above, but with limited space, it’s hard to get to them all. Room 101 released their Chief Cool Arrow, a new 6 x60 Tabak Especial was featured, My Father expanded on their Cigar of the Year winning Flor de Las Antillas (which is worth the box purchase in any size), and Perdomo even expanded their 20th Anniversary line with a new Connecticut wrapped version of their highly ranked offering. All in all, there’s a lot of new cigars hitting the market very soon that are sure to win your hearts, as well as a slew of line extensions such as the Kentucky Fire Cured and 601 La Bomba that are definitely worth a try. One of the most anticipated cigars of the year for me was the Chele by CLE, because let’s face it, everything Camacho founder Christian Eiroa touches turns to pure gold. In any case, head to Famous Smoke Shop to buy any one of these stellar new stogies when they become available, and stay smoky!