Blenders may have a hard time picking their favorite cigars, but can they even pick their own blends when blindfolded? We put Rick Rodriguez to the test in this Blind Tasting of CAO Cigars. Click to find out how he did…
2016 CA Report: Our Top 12 Summer Cigars of 2016
The Cigar Advisors’ Top Summer Cigars of 2016
By Jonathan Detore
The final fleeting pages on the book of summer 2016 have nearly all been turned as the temperature cools, the leaves begin to change colors, and fall encroaches upon us ever so slowly. We’re left with memories of going to the beach (or down the shore for all my Jersey natives), late night bonfires, and distant vacations cherished with family and friends; and with all these memorable moments come the memorable cigars. Personally, I’ve enjoyed a countless number of stogies, ranging from the VUDU Blood to one of my personal favorites, the La Aroma de Cuba.
There are cigars in between that left such a truly lasting impression this summer, making this year so far exceptionally spectacular. That’s exactly what this article is all about – the Cigar Advisor staff sharing some of our summer experiences and the cigars that helped us truly enjoy them. Whether it be in the office or out and about, these 12 cigars have helped us put a cap on summer 2016.
Por Larrañaga 1834
This first offering comes from Executive Editor Gary Korb, a man with over 15 years of experience in the cigar business. While relaxing poolside on a much needed day off, he lit up a Por Larrañaga 1834 and was instantly swept up in this cigar’s truly remarkable flavors. Packaged in an elaborately ornate box, the Por Larrañaga is a slow burning stogie that pours out notes of grassy hay, some pepper, cedar, and a delicate sweetness, making this mild bodied cigar perfect for a cigar smoker to enjoy on a day in the hot sun with the lady he loves.
Perdomo 20th Anniversary Sun Grown
Gary’s next choice was the Perdomo 20th Anniversary Sun Grown, a top 10 favorite among the entire Cigar Advisor staff, enjoyed at one of his favorite joints, The Lafayette Bar. Settled in the bustling city of Easton, PA, just a few miles east of Famous Smoke Shop, lies this interesting watering hole filled with a slew of characters that seem to all be from central casting in Hollywood. With jazz music and a smoky haze lingering in the air, Gary typically pulls out a Perdomo 20th Anniversary Sun Grown, a Nicaraguan puro aged 6 years with another 14 months of barrel aging to truly bring out all the subtle nuances of this awesome cigar. With the first few puffs, a slight spicy sweetness is released on the palate before hints of a slight nuttiness, coffee, and cream roll into play. It is the perfect complex cigar to enjoy in a bar with an equally complex atmosphere, truly enhancing his experience this summer lounging at one of his favorite joints.
Next up is the man behind the curtain, Copy Manager John Pullo, with the Camacho Powerband. While he’s always enjoyed this cigar thoroughly since its release this past June, this insanely complex cigar is a true staff favorite, even earning itself a full Cigar Advisor Panel Review. But nothing sticks out about this cigar more in John’s mind than when he was down in Florida for a family reunion, sitting on a beach, puffing away on this full-bodied gem. With a lot of deep, rich flavors behind it, this particular offering was blended and rolled in a unique way that amps up the flavor throughout the duration of the smoke. Starting out on the medium side, you’ll soon realize why this full-bodied cigar is perfect for lazing about on your day off.
Hoyo de Tradicion
The next cigar on John’s list of memorable summer smokes is the classic Hoyo de Tradicion by Hoyo de Monterrey. Originally this brand was produced in Cuba, but the embargo banned these premium cigars from entering into the U.S. Finally, a resurrection of sorts occurred in Honduras, with the Tradicion paying homage to the original brand’s Cuban heritage. With a box-pressed vitola, this creamy smooth cigar is a consistent favorite for John, pulling it into a countless number of meetings and while he’s writing any number of his extraordinary articles. When I asked why he wanted to showcase the Hoyo de Tradicion, he gave me a simple answer: “It’s smooth, it’s flavorful, and it helps me relax when things get a little hectic.” Fair enough, John. Fair enough.
Aging Room Solera Sun Grown
But when John or Gary aren’t puffing on any of the cigars mentioned above, both remember the awesome flavors of the new Aging Room Solera Sun Grown by Rafael Nodal. Though we’ve only tried a handful of these cigars each, this particular offering has really stuck in John and Gary’s minds for the richness and full-on flavor this cigar puts out. Using the traditional Solera method of aging and blending wines, whiskey, and cognac, Rafael Nodal employed this method to bring out every last drop of flavor in each shred of tobacco used to produce these cigars. I remember the first time both lit one up together in the office for the first time and telling me how this new offering never has a dull moment, which is true to the Aging Room name.
Writer at Large, Tommy “Zman” Zarzecki is one of our most experienced writers on staff, having been in the industry for nearly two decades. Along the way, he’s befriended many of today’s most well-known cigar manufacturers, one of whom is the humble Steve Saka, maker of the Sobremesa. While Tommy has enjoyed this offering time and time again, his most memorable experience smoking the Sobremesa was while interviewing Saka just a few months back on Zman’s Periscope account to give cigar lovers a firsthand look on what makes this baby sing. With 5 different filler tobaccos from all over the Caribbean basin, a Mexican binder, and a lush Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, this complex smoke is sure to leave a mark. But what really made the cigar and interview click for Tommy was the meaning behind the name. “Sobremesa” is a Spanish term that has no direct translation to English, but refers to the time after dinner before the plates are cleared when everyone sits around the table to break out the wine and cigars, and just enjoy each other’s company. So while this was a memorable cigar for Zman for both the flavor and meaning behind the cigar, we’re sure that you’ll make your own memories during Sobremesa at your next gathering.
Don Tomas Nicaragua
The Don Tomas almost never made its way to the U.S. market, having only been slated for the European market in 2015. But cigar lovers got a special treat at this past IPCPR when General Cigar Company announced the U.S. release of this highly anticipated smoke. Just like cigar smokers everywhere get excited about new releases, the same is the case for the Cigar Advisor staff. So when the Famous Smoke Shop representatives came back from the show with a few Don Tomas Nicaraguas in hand, it goes without saying Tommy and John were both very excited to try out this new U.S. offering. While sitting in the office, I was subjected to sounds of both of them going “Oooooooh! Ahhhhhhh!” as I sat at my desk trying to drown out these noises. But I soon lit one up with some friends at Leaf Cigar Bar and Restaurant to see what all the fuss was about, and boy did this baby sing. While enjoying the company of some of the best people I know, I was blown away by the sweet and smooth freshness of this incredible offering.
Rocky Patel 20th Anniversary
Some of my best memories are of time spent with my family, and recently my brother bought a complete fixer upper home. After almost a year ripping up flooring, tearing down walls, and everything in between, finally the day had come when the house was deemed habitable. That’s the day, after staring at the 5th dumpster full of rotted wood and sheetrock, my brother and I decided to take the day off to simply kick back with a cigar and a few beers and just enjoy the day. My cigar of choice was the incredible Rocky Patel 20th Anniversary. Made to celebrate Rocky Patel’s 20th year in the business, this timeless cigar is full of rich, complex flavors that make this smoke unforgettable in its own right. But sitting out front of a house we had almost completely rebuilt made it that much more enjoyable. Big thanks to my Dad for teaching us youngsters how to fix and repair old houses.
Herrera Esteli Norteño
Perhaps one of my favorite cigars is the Herrera Esteli Norteño. I try to buy a fiver whenever I run low on my stock, but it usually lasts me a while since I only smoke them on rare occasions. One of those moments was down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the Carolina Inn for a wedding. It was for my girlfriend’s cousin where I knew nearly nobody, but they had gin, and because of that, everyone became my friend in short order. But this spectacular wedding was made all the better getting to know her family over a stellar cigar, and that’s exactly why I broke out a few Norteños. The chocolaty flavors and full-bodied profile wowed the crowd, and made the conversation flow a little easier, allowing me to experience memories with her family I perhaps would otherwise have never had.
CLE Plus 2015
It’s no shock that I love everything Christian Eiroa makes, having said so in many articles in the past. But nothing to me is more enjoyable than the CLE Plus 2015. This easygoing, sweet and floral cigar emits hints of charred wood, spice, and an enjoyable light tea/flowery note was made even more memorable as I puffed away on the back deck with my friends as a personal sendoff to myself as my Dad signed the final papers to sell the house. Although it was my childhood home and it was sad to see it go, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my last shindig at the house I grew up in deep in the heart of rural New Jersey.
AVO is another manufacturer that pretty much only makes great cigars, so when the Avo Syncro landed on my desk, I was very excited to try it out. The staff was informed that we would be doing a cigar review on this cigar, so we all lit it up to get ready to give our opinions. For the first time in a long while, the writers in here all took a break from what we were doing to sit back, relax a bit, and just talk about the cigar and life in general. Although it may not sound too memorable to you, for me it was a breath of fresh air to add some much needed downtime to the stresses of the workday. It’s rare when we get to all just tell stories and get to know each other better, and the Avo Syncro allowed us to do just that as it blew us away with the complex profile only Avo is known for.
RoMa Craft Whiskey Rebellion
Finally, the Roma Craft Whiskey Rebellion. I had smoked this when it first came out in conjunction with Famous Smoke Shop and Cigar Dojo and was completely blown away with the deep, rich flavors that poured out of this stellar smoke. What really left a mark on me though is when the CA staff wrapped up our video review of this particular cigar. We always have fun busting the morning smoking cigars, and again, talking about life and bonding a little. It may just be me, but because of our time spent joking around and enjoying a cigar together, we have become one of the closest knit departments in the company, making this job all the better.
Cigars aren’t just about smoking, but rather how we enjoy them. From spending time in the lounge, taking a long walk, or gathering with the ones we love for a special occasion. That’s what made each of these 12 cigars memorable for us. So now it’s your turn to tell us. What was the most memorable cigar you’ve smoked this summer? Tell us in the comments, share the article, and ask your friends the same.