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The Mistresses of Mi Querida

The Mi Querida (right) and Mi Querida Triqui Traca from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust

Mi Querida literally translates to “my mistress” in Spanish. These cigars had been on Carl’s and my radar for years, and on our wishlist as a new addition to the shelves since January or even before. The Mi Querida enjoys a reputation among aficionados as a cigar for insiders. Everyone has had a Liga Privada. Make no mistake, they are top shelf cigars, but they are commonplace now. If you’ve spent time with a Mi Querida, you are a member of another tier of cigar enthusiast.

These are the darling blends of master blender Steve Saka, the former chief executive officer of Drew Estate Cigars, creator of the original Liga Privada blends, and now the creative mind behind the cigars of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust.

Overcome with excitement at the arrival of these amazing new cigars to our humble shop, we couldn’t wait to see how they would be received by our guys and gals. I asked one of our VIP’s, Kevin George Berger, long time aficionado and well-respected member of the Tallchief Cigar Circle, to smoke one of each of the two Mi Querida lines and give us his thoughts. What came back were a few quotes I couldn’t wait to share.

Guest Reviewer: Kevin George Berger

Before I get to Kevin’s experience, here is the quick blend breakdown, according to Dunbarton T&T.

Mi Querida (blue label):
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Flavor Profile: Full Bodied

Mi Querida Trique Traca (red label)
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Flavor Profile: Extra Full Bodied

After sampling the original blue label blend, Kevin wrote to me saying that the experience of this cigar brought to mind “the spring of a man’s life; The honey sweet innocence and discovery of new love; the journey of new experiences.”

Wow! Well said Kev.

I couldn’t wait to hear what thoughts would come out after smoking the much stronger and fuller bodied Triqui Traca (red label).

“The red label is the autumn of a man’s life! Appreciating the rich spice and mystery life has to offer, and yet the sheer joy in the anticipation of a known bliss yet to come! The Triqui Traca is an older mistress. More discerning, more wise, more mysterious less playful, she takes her time and knows what she wants. Less sweet for sure but has a complex and satisfying array of delicate spice. She is confident in her femininity and realizes it’s powers. Miss Red Label is a mistress for sure, but also, a remarkable woman worth spending time with!”

I challenge anyone reading this to translate the full experience of a cigar in a more beautiful and more relatable way that Kevin did here. Special thanks to our friend Kevin George Berger.

If you have yet to try Mi Querida, please come see us at the shop, as they are special cigars. And if you want to participate as my next blend review interviewee, I would love to talk to you! Hit me up, and as always…

Keep coming back!

-DP

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Why I Will Never Question The Price of a Cigar (Pre-Tax)

Courtesy: Adobe Stock

Depending on the State or Province you buy your premium cigars in, the price of your favorite stick has likely been inflated by State and Federal taxes. New York State is one of the worst offenders in this regard, and its 75% tax on premium cigars is not even half of what our friends in Ontario, Canada have to pay to the provincial government in order to enjoy a fine cigar. This is a travesty, but if we put taxation aside, I think it’s incredible that premium cigars are not more expensive than they are. When you consider everything that goes into producing each handcrafted smoke, it’s frankly amazing that they don’t all cost $40 or $50 a stick.

Premium cigars are meant for more than just smoking. They are made to be admired like the pieces of immersive artwork that they are. The next time you light up, take time to appreciate the texture of the wrapper, the weight of the cigar in your hand. Have a taste of the cigar prior to cutting, and see if you can identify flavors the wrapper leaf might contain. Take your time. Respect the craft of premium cigar making and the craftsmen that create them. Immerse yourself and pay some attention to the details. Because when you do, I believe you’ll see the true value in the experience of a premium cigar, and realize that you paid only a fraction of what that experience is actually worth to you.

It has been said that 200 pairs of hands are needed to create and deliver to your hand the cigar you are now holding. What do you think it pays to be a farm hand in the tobacco fields of Nicaragua? I know that Padron, Perdomo, Oliva, My Father, J.C. Newman, etc. do their very best to provide a good life for their employees, but it is still Nicaragua, and farming is still very hard work.

Consider that the tobacco in your cigar might have been harvested years ago, perhaps even a decade. Consider the amount of care and the number of people it took to look after that crop for all of that time. Consider your favorite cigar, the one you’ve smoked dozens of times and it always has that same taste. How is that possible? It’s a plant, grown in the earth, and there are people so skilled that they can create a blend for a cigar, and then continue to reproduce it for years and years. Do you know how to do that? Because I sure don’t. But some do, and they deserve the admiration and respect of the one receiving the fruit of their knowledge, hard work, and craftsmanship.

The more time I spend around cigars, the more I’ve learned about what it takes to produce and distribute them. When I consider all of this, I think it is absolutely incredible that you or I can have the experience of a premium cigar for $8, or $10, or $14. The next time you hear someone at your shop complaining about the price of a cigar, perhaps you will consider politely helping them see why that view is ignorant and ridiculous.

Keep Coming Back.

-DP

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The Padron Series

Episode 2 – The Little Hammer Story

In the first installment of this blog series, we talked about the unique position that Padron Cigars holds in the cigar industry and in the hearts and mouths of many cigar smokers world wide. The story of how Padron Cigars was born has been told many times, and for me, it added an even deeper appreciation for the brand, the cigars, and the hobby itself.

Jose Orlando Padron was born in Cuba, and fled to Miami in 1962 during the Revolution. During that time, Cuban refugees were given resettlement money in the form of a government check. Orlando said that every time he cashed that check, he felt like a burden on this wonderful country that gave him a chance at a new life. He was determined to make his own living and support his family with his own labors. 

One day, a friend at the Cuban Refugee Office, wanting to help Orlando realize this dream of self reliance, asked Orlando if he had any carpentry skills. Orlando said yes, so the friend gave him a little hammer. Orlando began taking any job he could find, and saving his money. With nothing but his hands and the little hammer, Orlando managed to save $600 and used that money to start Padron Cigars in 1964. 

Jose Orlando Padron never forgot the lesson of the little hammer, and you’ll find the image of a hammer on almost every box and cigar band that comes out of his factory to this day.

Episode #3 of the Padron Series Coming Soon!

Keep coming back.

-DP

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The Padron Series

Padron Cigars is considered a staple in any cigar shop. The Padron family are cigar royalty, and their products are at the very top of any honest ranking. Take a moment and Google Cigar Aficionado’s top 10 cigars of 2021. I’ll wait…

…You see what I mean? Their cigars are unquestionably excellent in flavor and construction, and they are undeniably Padron. They have a flavor essence that runs through each and every cigar, such that a seasoned smoker can easily identify a Padron cigar by taste alone. The construction is so consistent it’s mysterious. What do they know at Padron that other cigar makers do not? How is it possible that their cigars never fail? Never. An open draw and an even burn every single time.

I think it is their cigar making prowess that contributes significantly to this air of mystery and prestige that sets Padron apart from the rest of the industry. Many other cigar companies, to their credit, will do the usual retail song and dance of special pricing for this or that occasion, buy X get Y free, enticing buyers with new releases or free swag. Padron does none of this, because they know they don’t need to. They know that their cigar is superior. They know that every shop in the country needs to carry all of their stuff, and that their Padron customers will not be happy with anything else. No discounts, no giveaways, no sales gimmicks. The cigars are that good, and they know it.

There’s more to say about Padron, so check back in a couple days for Part 2.

Keep coming back.

-DP

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Rocky Patel LB1 Toro

Cigar Name: Rocky Patel LB1

Company Website: https://www.rockypatel.com/
Strength: 3/5
Vitola: Toro (6.25 x 52)
Origin: Honduras
MSRP: $11.00 Our Price: $9.25
Wrapper: Nicaragua

The LB1 has a wonderful wrapper. The shade of this cigar wrapper just screams “classic.” Sometimes I think Maduro wrappers look really intimidating or just comically dark, but this is a cigar you could hand to anyone and instantly, they would think that this is how a cigar should look. And the Toro vitola is the obvious choice to complete that feeling.

The smoke and flavor from this cigar can be best described as toasty. This cigar profiles as a perfect medium-body cigar; not too heavy, and certainly not light, with just enough kick to give mild cigar smokers the notice that this one is a step up from what they are typically used to. On top of the toast, there are notes of coffee laced throughout this cigar, with some slight earthiness, but not too much. The toasty smoke is one of my favorite types of smoke; the nice, moderate strength combined with the aromatic smoke that you can taste on the inhale creates a really nice flavor that is enjoyable when it comes in a medium body. Nothing about this cigar was overpowering at any point in the experience, and a great draw provided lots of flavorful and billowing smoke. I really have grown to like this one.

The burn from this cigar was even and measured throughout and it did not require touching up or maintenance after the initial light. This cigar was well-built and did not give any hint of poor construction at any point; there was no threat of unraveling or uneven burning or anything of that sort. All in all, the LB1 is a wonderful cigar that is offered in so many different sizes that it is suitable for anyone of any experience level. It’s a perfect medium body with no excessive spice or kick to it, making it an enjoyable smoke for anyone who comes across this one. I’d recommend giving it a try.

This Cigar is an in-store-only exclusive, so hurry in while we’ve still got ’em. And don’t forget that our entire selection of Rocky Patel cigars now listed online is available to you at an additional 10% off if you use the coupon code ROCKY10 at checkout!

Happy smoking!

CB

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REVIEW – Alec Bradley Project 40 Maduro

  • Strength: 4 /  5
  • Size: 5 x 52
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Price (local): $7.50
  • Wrapper: San Andres
  • Flavor Text:

Project 40 goes dark

Project 40 has probably impacted your life, without you even realizing it. Basically, Project 40 is based on the concept that 50% percent of your happiness comes from genetics, 10% is based on circumstance, and the remaining 40% all depends on your outlook and mindset. The goal being to find how a product can have a positive impact on your mind and body, and improve your happiness and comfort overall. We all know that cigars are a relaxing activity that brings people together and helps create a sense of comfort and mental well-being, so it was only natural that Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley would apply this concept to cigars. What is even more natural is that eventually Alan would expand the line to include a darker Maduro version. 

Enter Project 40 Maduro. For this version, a delicious Mexican San Andrés wrapper encases the same Brazilian Habano binder and Nicaraguan filler blend of the original Project 40 taking the flavor profile up a notch with smooth, peppery notes and a natural sweetness that Maduro cigars are known for. Dressed in a maroon and gold color scheme, this addition distinguishes itself from its predecessor in looks. Sure to be a hit like the 93-rated Project 40, the Maduro extension is going to go fast. Go on, take a walk on the dark side and enhance your 40%, grab a box today. 

I have always pretty heavily endorsed the AB Project 40 to friends and family who were looking for a really nice budget smoke that won’t blow your head off, and once I got a look at the AB Project 40 Maduro, I figured that it could potentially be a candidate for everyday smoke based on it’s cheap price, it’s medium to full body, and the price point it is often sold at. Overall, I’d say this cigar is solid, but not spectacular, and it’s about what you’d expect for only spending anywhere between 6-8 dollars on a cigar.

It’s pretty rare to pay an average of 7 dollars for a Maduro cigar; if that’s what you’re spending, then you’re probably getting a very small smoke, perhaps something like a small Perfecto or Corona, max. This cigar has some sixe to it for the prize, and as usual from AB, it’s got signature branding and construction. The draw was passable, not too tight or too loose, but a little bit more smoke would have been nice. The San Andres wrapper was dark and toothy, and it added a distinguishable peppery bite to this smoke. Already boasting a stronger Nicaraguan blend of tobacco than the usual Project 40, the Maduro version brings together a lot of elements traditionally found in a “strong” cigar to put a fresh, new spin on an old favorite.

The most excellent thing about this cigar is the wrapper. As most Maduro wrappers go, this one has a distinct sweetness to it that most Maduro smokers will identify and love. As for the tobacco, it was pretty non-descript actually. I had to go searching for the flavor of it, and mostly what I found was just pepper. Nothing really else to it, just the pepper you’d expect to taste in a strong cigar. The Maduro wrapper is always redeeming, and for 7 dollars, you really get a good bargain for a cigar like this, but at the end of the day, I didn’t really appreciate the blend much. It’s just a cigar with some punch due to the pepper. That’s really all. Nothing impressive, but not bad. I put it in my ‘Just a Smoke’ category and maybe pick up another when I’m looking to rip through something really fast.

Happy smoking! CB 

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REVIEW – AJ Fernandez Last Call Habano

  • Strength: 4 / 5
  • Vitola: Geniales 4 x 52
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Price (local): $6.55
  • Wrapper: Ecuador Habano

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t herf here

If you ever get the chance to tour a cigar factory, do it in a heartbeat. If you get the chance to tour A.J. Fernandez’s world class operation in Esteli, Nicaragua, I’d recommend going even if it means you have to skip your mother-in-law’s 60th birthday party. What does that have to do with the Last Call? Quite simply, this cigar was handed out at the end of the night, normally in the 4th quarter of whatever game was on at the time, to guests staying at A.J.’s Casa Blanca house during their tour of his facilities.

Since its inception as A.J.’s preferred nightcap, they had been getting requests to sell this cigar, and finally it was released to the public. Handmade in Esteli, this Nicaraguan puro might be short, but you’d be crazy to think it doesn’t pack a punch. Booming forward with a core of roasted nut flavors, spice, and a unique creamy, woodsy note. 

AJ Fernandez Last Call has received an impressive 93-point rating from Cigar Aficionado, noting: “A short, stout cigar with an uncut foot. It’s a toasty, nutty smoke fortified with chewy, earthy notes and a savory, leathery finish.”

This cigar packs a ton of flavor into a small (4 x 52) package, and while it features a lot of thin sizes, my favorite over the years has come to be the Corticas (short robusto.) The Last Call comes in both a Habano and a Maduro wrapper, and it features a signature blend of AJ Fernandez Nicaraguan tobacco that has an extremely toasty and nutty flavor to it. The Maduro Last Call has a natural sweetness to it and, combined with a bit of these flavors and some pepper to each draw, it offers it’s own unique experience for those that like a bit more punch to their cigars. My favorite is the Habano; the warm, leathery and toasty warm wrapper generates a great tasting pull and an aromatic smoke that hangs in the air long after the exhale. Both are wonderful choices, and both are great selections for an every day smoke. 

A Last Call won’t last long; it’ll smoke in about 25-30 minutes, but boy, what an excellent half hour it is. The Last Call is a fantastic smoke for those winter days where you don’t want to burn one outside all day long, but still want an experience with a cigar that is worth every penny. For the price, you went get a better inch for inch cigar than a Last Call. Everything that AJ touches is gold, but especially these Last Calls, and they are the perfect addition to any smoke break, walk of the dog, or whatever else you break for. Grab one if you see them and see which one you like better. Great smoke.

Happy smoking! CB 

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REVIEW – AJ Fernandez Last Call Maduro

  • Strength: 4 /  5
  • Vitola: Geniales 4 x 52
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Price (local): $6.50
  • Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf

It’s Last Call… er, again? 

Much like the film ‘biz, we’re an industry obsessed with sequels. Unlike summer blockbusters, though, cigar manufacturers have a great track record of improving upon their original releases, crafting fitting tributes and mouthwatering line extensions that oftentimes outshine the first blend. Today, we welcome the Last Call Maduro by A.J. Fernandez to CI, and I’ve gotta say, this follow-up might just be the true masterpiece of the duo. 

Originally crafted as A.J.’s personal final cigar of the night, Last Call was released nationally just a few years back, and it went gangbusters. Today, we’re staring down the same blend, just donned in a Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro wrapper that’s silky-smooth in all the right ways. Lighting this one up, you’ll be greeted with a Molotov cocktail of dark chocolate, espresso, black pepper spice, and a thick, molasses-like sweetness in the background. 

I also reviewed one of my favorite Habano cigars of all time, the Last Call by AJ Fernandez. The Last Call comes in these two wrappers, and while the Maduro isn’t quite on the same level for me personally as the Habano, the Maduro has a lot of it’s own unique characteristics that make it an incredible choice for Maduro lovers and those who like a nice, quick smoke break as they please.

The Last Call Habano and the Last Call Maduro are largely the same, and they both feature masterpiece Nicaraguan blends from the Master of Tobacco, AJ Fernandez. Obviously to most, the difference is going to be in the wrapper on these. While a Habano wrapper gives a lot of spiciness and kick with each draw, the Maduro wrapper offers a somewhat natural sweetness, as is common among all Maduro wrappers, with some more distinguished silkiness and smoothness that the Habano just doesn’t possess. 

This cigar gives you exactly what you’d expect from a dark and inviting smoke like this one: lots of dark, dessert flavors with a bit of a kick to them. Cocoa and dark Brazilian coffee come to the forefront of this smoke, with pepper scattered throughout to stimulate your senses and some sweetness on the back end. Some might identify the back-end sweetness as it’s own flavor, but I just attribute that note to the wrapper. It’s got a very nice, milder sweetness to it that you won’t catch unless you look for it, but like most Maduro cigars, it’s a wonderful example of everything a Maduro cigar can offer with the proper blend and the attention it deserves.

Both Last Calls are amazing, quick smokes. They are a must-try for most smokers who smoke above the level of mild. I highly recommend them in any size, and I’d suggest them above all other mini-smokes if you like 20 minute cigars. Go get them.

Happy smoking! CB