Recluse Draconian

CIGAR

In the interest of full disclosure, I received two of the Recluse Draconian cigars from the Iconic Leaf Cigar Company for the sole purpose of reviewing.

The cigars did not come with specific measurements, as the actual release vitolas have not yet been announced. They were, however, very similar to a robusto in both length and ring gauge.

I smoked the first of these cigars a couple of weeks ago and today finished off the pair. Occasionally when one smokes two identical cigars, they will behave quite differently, making it difficult to write a truly objective review. This time, however, the two cigar were consistent with each other, so I feel no conflict.

Pre-Light

The pre-light smell was pungent, being of a slightly sweet, barnyard nature. It isn’t often that I pair those two things–sweet and barnyard–but it fits here. It was quite pleasant, actually, avoiding the overwhelming manure scent that certain other cigars sometimes have. There are cigar reviewers who claim that the more a cigar smells like manure, the better it is going to taste. I have experienced some of these, but it isn’t a constant. Certainly not something on which to base your cigar purchasing choices.

The wrapper was a medium-dark brown, with a small amount of mottling, but nothing too unsightly. There were no visible imperfections in the way of tears, rips, or holes.

The cold draw was a little snug and delivered a robust chestnut or oak flavor, very natural and rustic. The construction was solid and the cigar balanced well in the palm of my hand. Tightly packed, it took me awhile to light, and I became a bit concerned about how the burn was going to progress.

First Third

Once I got the cigar lit and began drawing, the pre-light flavors shifted to a smooth coffee and nut. The interesting thing was that they weren’t two distinct flavors coexisting. Rather, they were operating as one–if coffee were made with nuts instead of beans, this is what it would taste like. (Granted, coffee “beans” are actually seeds, but let’s not get technical, eh?)

After about a quarter of an inch, I was forced to touch up the cigar, as the burn began going off the reservation. Then, about a half inch in, the ash became flaky and I had to tap it off to avoid getting it all over my pants.

The smoke was leaving a dry feeling in the back of my throat and an oily sensation on my tongue and the roof of my mouth. Describing it makes this sound horrid, but on the contrary it lent a nice lingering flavor. It also seemed to trap only the pleasant flavors, leaving behind none of the harshness that sometimes occurs with a long aftertaste. At this point the smoke also began giving off a nice chocolate scent.

Second Third

The second third featured a bit of pepper. It wasn’t strong and didn’t leave behind any tingle or burn on the lips or tongue, but was there for about an inch or so and added a good extra dimension to the flavor profile. I did have to retouch the burn again and also tapped off another half inch or so of flaky ash. The draw, which up to this point had been snug, began opening up and the smoke output also increased. There were a couple of points, particularly during a quarter inch or so, when the cigar took on some harsh notes. This could have been due to having to retouch it a couple of times.

Final Third

A wood flavor became foremost, crowding out the coffee and nut, delivering a nice hickory or oak with a smooth, smoky finish. In fact, the last half, and especially the last third, was my favorite part as the cigar really came into its own. For a brief time a not entirely awesome grassy flavor cropped up, but disappeared quickly.

Conclusion

This cigar was not quite as good as the Recluse Iconic OTG Toro, but is still a great addition to the line. This cigar would benefit from being smoked as slowly as it will allow. This is typically sound advice for any cigar, but especially important for a cigar with any harsh-burning tendencies. When this cigar smoked well, it was excellent. In my opinion, if this cigar had been just a bit less firmly rolled, any existing issues would disappear. The tight roll may have resulted in the slightly erratic burn, which led to the retouch, which may have led to the moments of harshness. I wouldn’t hesitate to try another of these cigars, however, and it was overall a great smoking experience.

La Campina Corona

I smoked a couple of cigars side-by-side today, to get a good comparison on my quest to find a good, economical smoking choice. My two candidates today were the La Gran Fuma toro and La Campina corona.

I decided to light up the La Campina (5 1/2 x 44) first. I can’t say enough good things about the appearance of this cigar. It is a beautiful stick, feels great in the fingers, and is perfectly balanced. It just screams out to be smoked. And that is what I did.

It lit easily and the first puff provided a fantastic draw. A draw that required little more than a puff of the cheeks to obtain a mouthful of smoke. My first impression of the taste was “extremely earthy.” I could almost taste the soil in which the tobacco grew. Eating dirt shouldn’t be enjoyable, but it had a comforting, natural taste to it. As it smoked down a ways, the earthy taste gave way to a nut and wood based flavor, with a hint of spice here and there.

The draw continued to be superb, the burn was even and predictable, and the ash was fairly good-looking. All in all, this is a great, economical smoke. It’s strong enough to be enjoyed in the evening after dinner, but not too strong for a morning smoke as well. Really, the only bad thing I have to say is that it does burn a little hot, which is not unheard of for a cigar with a smaller ring gauge. Up the humidity a bit and that problem may very well go away.

In short, the La Campina corona is a great little cigar for the patio and yet manageable if you need to smoke on the go.

Good Points

  • Easy light
  • Good, solid taste
  • Plentiful smoke
  • Even burn
  • Aesthically pleasing

Bad Points

  • Burns a little hot

La Floridita Limited Edition Toro (Live)

9:05 pm – I’m sitting out on the patio right now, enjoying a La Floridita Limited Edition toro cigar. It’s early for spring in Michigan, but I’m not going to look a gift warm day in the mouth. Getting suspicious of Mother Nature and trying to second guess her doesn’t pay. She always comes back with something you aren’t expecting. So instead I am choosing to ignore the feeling of impending doom and enjoy the mild, although somewhat breezy, evening. Fortunately the patio has enclosed sides, protecting my smoking experience from too much wind.

9:27 pm – I’m about an inch and a half into the La Floridita and I have to say that so far it is meeting my possibly unreasonable expectations. These expectations were mainly due to a couple of largely unpleasant smoking experiences earlier in the day–more on that in a later post. In short, I was ready for something decent. The cigar lit nicely and was good from the beginning. The farther I’ve smoked the better it has tasted. The flavor, a bit harsh at first, has mellowed and since that initial change has remained constant.

9:47 pm – I’m about an inch farther in and happy to report that the pleasant, even taste has continued. The good-looking ash finally fell off of its own accord at about two inches and the cigar continued burning like a champ. The burn got off once, but self-corrected with no assistance from me. It has burned coolly, as well, no hint yet of hot smoke, although we’ll see what happens in another inch or two.

9:55 pm – The draw of this cigar is very good, not fantastic, but good. It requires something of a pull, but it doesn’t make your jaws hurt after an hour of smoking. In fact, I’m beginning to dread the end of the smoke, even though I have at least thirty minutes left. To me that is a great sign of a good cigar when you don’t want it to end. I’ve smoked decent cigars that I was ready to put away long before they died a natural death. So far the La Floridita is not one of them.

10:14 pm – The cigar finally went cold. Apparently I let it sit too long. I relit it, purged it, and rediscovered the flavor. It’s a little stronger now, with only three inches left to go, but it’s still enjoyable. It still hasn’t begun to burn hot. I really like the smoke production of this cigar. I would say it is medium-high volume. It’s sightly, aromatic, and plentiful. I personally like a lot of smoke from my cigars, but too much can be overwhelming. The La Floridita has just the right amount for me.

10:36 pm – Only about an inch and a half of smokable cigar to go and all is well. The cigar has maintained its burn and stayed flavorful. It is beginning to get just a bit harsher, but the smoke has remained cool. It has also lasted a little longer than I expected, with still about twenty minutes to go. Granted, I’ve been writing and not constantly smoking, but it’s still a good run. I’m starting to wind down now and, while not looking forward to the end of the smoke, am feeling content enough to stop when the time comes.

10:48 – Maybe one more inch and I’ll be done with this cigar. It went out again and I had to relight and purge. Even so, it’s still enjoyable. It’s getting a bit brutal in flavor, although still not burning overly hot. The smoke is becoming pretty spicy, but not bad at all. I’m going to go ahead and give this cigar four out of five stars, bid you all a good night, and finish it off. Thanks for reading! Why not pick up a La Floridita Limited and give it a try? If you do, stop back by and let me know how you made out. See you all later!

The Cuban Legend

Nikita Kruschev is premier of the Soviet Union, which is in the middle of a cold war with the United States. A cold war that is threatening to get very hot very soon. Off the southern shores of Florida, a tiny island nation reels in the throes of civil war and a rebel dictator assumes leadership of Cuba. The new Cuban prime minister, Fidel Castro, wastes little time in cozying up to the communist regime in the Soviet Union, while the dynamic U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, recognizes the danger of having a communist nation, essentially a Soviet base, so close to American soil. In an effort to force a change in Cuban leadership and take a hard stance against communism, the hot button topic of the day, Kennedy institutes a rigid economic embargo against Cuba. This includes the coveted Cuban cigar.
 
I have never had the opportunity to sample a true Cuban, unfortunately, although I understand they may not be as stellar as they once were. In the old days Cuban cigars underwent the most rigorous quality control process possible. If there was even the slightest hint of flaw in the construction of a cigar, the company would refuse to sell it. Because of this unwavering attention to detail and dedication to perfection, the Cuban cigar quickly became prized and sought after around the world. This drastically heightened demand caused great strain on the production capabilities and rendered the strict quality control unrealistic. Perfection came with a cost. As a result of this and also the ensuing embargo, there is talk that the Cuban cigar is not what it once was. I can’t personally attest to this. Never having had the pleasure of a pre-embargo Cuban, I wouldn’t know the relative quality of a new one even if I got my hands on one. Are Cubans still the best in the world or are they simply benefitting from the legend? One day I hope to find out.

 Just before the embargo went into effect and being a man of fine taste in a variety of areas, President Kennedy naturally realized that the nation’s supply of Cubans would soon dry up and with that in mind he sent aides out to buy a significant number of them. They purchased at least 1,200 with other estimates ranging in the thousands.
 
The embargo continued to 1977 when it lapsed under Jimmy Carter and the ban on U.S. dollars being spent in Cuba was lifted. The ban and embargo were reinstated in 1982 by Ronald Reagan and have continued ever since. The current regulation, passed in 2004, does not specifically ban travel to Cuba, but makes it illegal to spend money there.
 
Fifty years later, one has to wonder about the effectiveness of the embargo. Looking back we see that not much has changed, with the exception of the economic situation of the Cuban people. The embargo didn’t punish Castro, it punished the people. And it also punished the vast cigar-smoking community in the United States. At the time the embargo made political sense, but it is now time to move past that and open the borders once more to premium Havana smokes.

Gran Habano #3 Rothschild

I think on this review it will be easier to start with the good points about this cigar. It has a pretty label and a cool name. 4 1/2 inches long with a 50 ring gauge, the Gran Habano #3 Rothschild looks good; I like the solid appearance. But that was where most of the enjoyment stopped, regardless of the respectable 86 rating that users on Famous-Smoke.com assigned to it.

Horrible, uneven burn.I had some trouble getting it lit, which annoyed me from the start. One side lit easily, while the other was so tightly packed I had to practically scorch it to get any result. This no doubt contributed to the acrid, bitter taste I got when I first started smoking. I decided not to hold that against it just yet.

It remained bitter until about an inch in, at which point it mellowed and became marginally enjoyable for the next inch or so. Then it returned to its bitter roots and I seriously considered quitting on a stick, something I hardly ever do.

Ugly ash.There were other problems with the cigar, however. It burned like a little bastard, down one side and leaving the rest untouched. I know this can sometimes be due to over-humidification, but with my humidor set at 60-65% humidity, I don’t think moisture was the problem. More likely the construction of the cigar continued to be too tightly packed on the same side that had given me fits during the lighting. I tried correcting the burn by relighting one side and then by wetting my thumb with saliva and running it along the base of the burning side. Neither attempt was successful and the cigar soon resumed its wayward path.

Cracking wrapper.Another problem I had with the cigar was the way the ash flaked from the foot. It peeled and split, almost a flowering appearance. Interesting at first, this soon proved to be most unsightly. Since a decent percentage of my smoking enjoyment comes from the beauty of the cigars, this new development only turned me against the stick even more. And then, just when I was thinking it couldn’t get any worse, I gently rolled the cigar between my fingers only to have the wrapper crack, split, and begin unraveling. I had pretty much had it, so I put it out a tad early and chalked this one up the experience.

The flavor had promise, although fleeting, and for this reason alone I may try some other Gran Habano products. As far as the other four #3’s in my humidor go…those I’ll save for emergencies or gifts to smokers I don’t particularly like.

Good Points

  • Love the label

Bad Points

  • Poor construction
  • Inconsistent taste
  • Ugly burn
  • Cracking wrapper

Famous Signature Series by Garcia Family Robusto

I ordered four of these five-inch beauties online and immediately stuck them into my humidor upon arrival. As an aside let me mention how much I love online cigar shopping. Although there’s nothing quite like the smell and feel of a brick and mortar tobacco shop, there’s also something special about ordering online and waiting impatiently for the packages to arrive at the doorstep. It’s like Christmas over and over…and over. I do most of my shopping at CigarAuctioneer.com. I highly recommend checking it out, but don’t say I didn’t warn you concerning the addictive properties of the site. But back to the Garcia Family.

The cigar was the Famous Signature Series by Garcia Family Robusto. Five inches long with a 50 ring gauge, it’s a nice-looking stogie and I couldn’t wait to light it up. After punching a hole in the cap, I pre-tested the draw and it seemed good, so I began toasting the foot. There was no trouble lighting the cigar and the first couple of puffs seemed to confirm a good construction.

As I smoked, however, I began noticing a bitter taste to the smoke. This is typical for smokers who, out of inexperience or impatience, scorch the foot while lighting, but I had been careful and was pretty sure that wasn’t the problem. Indeed, the bitter taste continued for the first half-inch. At that point the cigar shifted to a nice, even feel and I could pick out some interesting nutty flavors. I wouldn’t call it a creamy taste, but it wasn’t at all harsh. The taste improved as the smoke progressed and continued to burn cool up until the last inch and a half.

The smoke was plentiful and fairly aromatic. The burn was almost flawless, even and predictable. One of the things I loved about this cigar was the aesthetic properties of the ash, which was a beautiful whitish-gray.

Overall, I would call this cigar pleasant and innocuous. It wasn’t flashy or complex, but a good, basic smoke. I will definitely be enjoying the other three in my humidor.

Good Points

  • Plentiful smoke
  • Even burn
  • Pleasant taste
  • Beautiful ash

Bad Points

  • Could use more flavor
  • Starts out a little bitter