By Russ Ouellette
Punch Rothschild Maduro CigarsI’ve been smoking Punch Rothschilds since about 1977.
Back then (as now), they came in half-wheels of 50 inside a box, secured with a ribbon. They never had bands or cellophane back then, and, frankly, they’re not the same cigar, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you like a very earthy, flinty cigar, you should probably track down Mr. Peabody and see if he’ll let you use the Wayback machine, otherwise, light one of these up, as there’s much to like in the new version.

Today’s Punch Rothschild is a stubby robusto (4.5 x 50, although the older ones were a 48 ring gauge, I believe) with a coffee-brown wrapper that exhibits a couple of small veins, but nothing too thick. The cigars are fairly firm, but not tightly packed. The Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper has a nice satin-like sheen and the unlit aroma is earthy with a solid, fermented tobacco scent. On the pre-light draw, I get a woody note with a bit of faint coffee. The initial flavor after lighting is somewhat surprising; I get a heavy blast of oak, with a hint of espresso and cocoa (unsweetened). The draw is a touch loose, but the cigar kicks out a good amount of smoke.

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By Russ Ouellette
When the Hoyo de Tradicion first arrived in our store a couple of years ago, or thereabouts, I had to do a double-take because the band, which is much different than the one we’re familiar with, looks a lot like the Cuban version. That intrigued me enough to try it, and I remember being happily surprised, but for some reason I didn’t revisit the cigar for quite some time.

When I was asked to review the Epicure, I recalled that I enjoyed the cigar and was eager to give it another try. The 5.75 x 45 box-pressed vitola has a nice rusty-colored Honduran Rosado wrapper with a nice sheen and fine veins. The pre-light aroma is the fairly typical barnyard scent, but there’s a slightly sweet spiciness in the aroma, and it shows up again in the pre-light draw, along with toast and a hint of dark chocolate.

This series has some unique aspects, such as the reddish-hued wrapper, the use of Connecticut-grown Habano for a binder and the addition of Nicaraguan filler from the volcanic island, Ometepe. I like products that take a fresh approach, because there’s almost always going to be a surprise, and this cigar is no exception.

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By Tad Gage
Partagas No. 2 Natural Cameroon (Corona) Cigar ReviewPartagas. Plain old Partagas.
Not the Partagas Ciefuentes, or Partagas Serie S, Partagas 160 Signature or the other fine offerings in this classic line. But the plain old, reliable red-and-gold label General Cigar product I’ve been enjoying for years. Partagas: a brand so ubiquitous it can easily be lost in the sea of new brands, limited editions, fancy shapes and sizes, and cigars with exotic leaf with mystical names. Those are wonderful, too, but it was nice to wrap my lips around a good old Partagas.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Dominican-made Partagas has been a part of my humidor for the past 25 years. Mostly represented by the No. 10, a 7 ½ inch, 49 ring Cameroon-wrapped wonder that it is always perfect for a long, leisurely smoke, and the 8-9-8, which shows how well a 44 ring gauge cigar can be constructed and smoked.

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By Russ Ouellette
A lot of people are unfamiliar with the name El Credito, but I’m sure you’re aware of most of the products they make. El Credito is the original name of the company that is now part of General Cigar and is responsible for the La Gloria Cubana and El Rico Habano brands. The El Credito name is what they have used for years for their mixed-filler bundled cigars.

The Monarch is a 7 ¼ x 54 behemoth, with an appetizing dark brown Ecuadorian Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. The wrapper leaf is a bit veiny, but certainly not bad for a cigar this size that sells for less than $4.00. The filler is from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, and the feel is nice and solid. The pre-light aroma is mostly the expected barnyard smell with a hint of sweetness, and the pre-light draw, though a little funky, has some dusky cocoa and wood notes.

The cigar kicks out quite a bit of smoke, and that falls right into my experience with mixed-filler (or Cuban sandwich) smokes. The main flavor is kind of oaky with cocoa and earth, and a hint of spice in the category of allspice or nutmeg. The burn is okay for the money, but fairly uneven, another hallmark of the mixed-filler type stogie. After the first half-inch, the flavors marry and merge, and the cigar takes on more of a bittersweet mocha profile with a semi-sweet wood note and a hint of leather and earth. As the first third is finished, the flavors intensify a tad, and the smoke becomes a little thicker, creamier and sweeter.

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By Russ Ouellette
I was first introduced to the Oliva Serie V the day before our rollout event over 4 years ago. The initial order arrived, and I broke one out and smoked it. The next day we had our event, which was made even more special because José Oliva was at our shop, and we had a great talk about the cigar, so as I review this one, I’ll be weaving some of the background I picked up from José into the tale.

The very first thing to note about the Serie V is its appearance. This is one of the most visually striking cigars on the market. The understated, but beautifully designed band exudes class and the finely veined, oily, milk chocolate colored wrapper has a satiny sheen that catches the eye.

The cigars are nicely rolled, and are firm and even to the touch. The pre-light draw brings elements of cocoa, wood and a cinnamon-like spice. There’s also a faint sweetness that’s hard to identify. The draw is just firm enough, but not restrictive. The unlit aroma has that familiar barnyard smell, but with a spiciness that’s unique.

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By Russ Ouellette
The Brioso brand
from General Cigar was introduced to be sold at brick and mortar (b&m) stores only. These budget smokes are intended to be sold at around $3.00 a stick, and come in four different sizes. The filler consists of tobacco from Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. The binder is Connecticut Habano and the wrapper comes from the Jamastran region of Honduras.

The cigar makes a decent appearance. The wrapper leaf isn’t overly veiny, and seemed fairly firm to the touch, and the pre-light draw was fine. Unlit, I got a grassy taste upon puffing and a hay-like smell with a slightly sour tinge.

This cigar had the elements to be a great value cigar- made by a well-known company, bundled to keep prices down, with a seemingly complex multi-national blend to give some depth. Everything was fine until…I lit it. The burn was okay for the price, pretty even, and I didn’t notice any soft spots. I also didn’t notice any flavor. There was a slight leathery taste and there was a woody quality. I like wood notes in a cigar, like the cedar in a good Cameroon or the oakiness that can be found in some medium-bodied smokes, but this was a very dry and bland woodiness, like balsa.

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By Russ Ouellette
Brick House Cigar Reviews
Brick House was part of J.C. Newman’s lineup in the past when they were made with Cuban tobacco. Obviously, the embargo put an end to that particular cigar, but with the recent tax increases on premium cigars, the Newman family started looking for a premium cigar that would be in keeping with the growing market for richer, more robust cigars, but at a price point that would better suit a tough economy.

The cigars have a unique Nicaraguan Havana Subido wrapper which is a nice-looking reddish-brown that has a beautiful oily sheen. The rest of cigar is made of Nicaraguan tobacco, which makes this a puro. The band has an old-time look about it, and the packaging is in suit. The entire line sells in the $5 to $6 range keeping it within the range of value-oriented cigars.

The attractive, chunky toro (6 x 52) has a firm but springy feel, and has a light, fermented aroma with a bit of dry cocoa and a bit of spice. I used (as I do almost all the time) a Palio double guillotine to make a straight cut, and checked the pre-light draw, which was very smooth and even. I picked up on some sweet wood, dusky cocoa and a hint of nutmeg.

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By Gregory L. Pease, Associate Editor
Quesada Oktoberfest CigarsWhen I think of a Dominican puro, certain flavor and aroma cues, cultivated some 30 years ago, grab hold of my brain and refuse to let go, putting Quesada’s new Okoberfest range, introduced at this year’s ICPCR, at a slight disadvantage, at least with respect to initial impressions, but one which it quickly rises above; this is a Dominican puro with a difference. It’s a robust blend, though not a strong one, specifically designed, as its name suggests, to be enjoyed with a good brew. The cigar is available in two sizes, both parejos: the Bavarian (5-1/2" x 52), like a mucho gordo Corona Gorda, and the ridiculously proportioned Über (6" x 65). I smoked the Bavarian.

This cigar sports an oily, deep brown, almost maduro wrapper the company refers to as "Dominican Cibao." Construction is excellent; solid and weighty, but not overly dense, and the draw is perfect. Before lighting, I got impressions of bright Central American coffee and leather. It lit fairly easily, a dark black shadow underlining medium grey ash. Two matches, and we’re off to the races.

The Bavarian initially engages with deep flavor notes, an almost Brazilian-like earthiness underlying more typical Dominican woody, bittersweet character. As the smoke progresses, a subdued, molasses-like sweetness develops in the background, though the cigar remains more dry and leathery than overtly sweet.

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By Tad Gage
I was totally looking forward to diving into this robusto,
with a rich brown, smooth and oily Nicaraguan wrapper. It offered up a rich, earthy aroma in a quick pre-smoke sniff. I was also looking forward to an all-Nicaraguan tobacco cigar. I love free zones and the blends they allow to be made of tobaccos from different countries, but a "one nation" smoke, in the tradition of Cuban cigars, is always welcome. The cigar comes in five sizes, including the recently introduced 4 x 38 Habanito and 6 x 60 El Emperador. It’s available only at smoke shops (some of whom may sell online), so it can be a bit tricky to find.

I really enjoyed Nicaraguan cigars, which in the "old days" tended to be among the most full-bodied non-Cuban smokes. It was a sad day when the Sandinistas took control of the country and ran the show from 1979 to 1990. Not that the country was an economic or political jewel under the previous Somoza dictatorship, but the cigar industry was one of the nation’s brighter spots. Following the Sandinista coup, manufacturers fled, tobacco fields went untended or were destroyed, and the diminished crop that did emerge from the country was awful. It took several years to resurrect the fields and industry after the Sandinistas were booted, but Nicaraguan cigar leaf is definitely back – maybe better than ever.

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By Tad Gage
Puro Sabor CigarBilled as a bundled cigar that belongs in a box,
the Puro Sabor Toro, with a ballpark retail price under $4, is well-positioned. The Nicaraguan filler is wrapped with very attractive Ecuadorian Connecticut seed leaf, and the cigar is well constructed. Music City Marketing, one of the premier pipe and tobacco product distributors in the US, has given its retail customers a nice, everyday kind of cigar at a great price point. Individually banded and cello wrapped, the cigar does have the feel of a high-end boxed cigar. Music City partnered with Toraño to produce this one.

The evenly applied and smooth Colorado wrapper has an attractive oily glow. The band is appealing, with a simple yellow, blue and white design that isn’t boastful. The cap is a bit skimpy and split slightly when I used my punch cutter, and would probably do better with a guillotine cut. The cap is one place where makers can cut a bit of cost related to application, so this wasn’t unexpected in a value cigar. The overall cigar construction is consistent, but a bit spongier than it should be. The filler tobaccos gave way under the light pressure of a very sharp cutter. The soft construction provided plenty of draw, but enough resistance to create a balance and not feel like sucking air. Despite the soft construction, it burned remarkably slowly and developed an even ash.

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