Russ Ouellette
I generally don’t smoke Connecticut Shade-Grown wrapped cigars, as I find them to be a bit light for my tastes, but every so often I’ll try one that has an unusual binder/filler combination that promises to make it particularly satisfying. I just found one of those— the Alec Bradley Maxx Connecticut.

The particular stick I tested was The Culture, a 6.5 by 54 toro gorda. The wrapper was typical of top-quality Connecticut; thin, a light golden color and few noticeable veins. The aroma of the unlit cigar was hay-like with a little earthiness. I used a double guillotine to shave the top of the cap as I don’t like punches for larger ring gauges. The pre-light draw was free and easy, almost a bit too easy, but the cigar was uniformly firm, so my concerns were somewhat assuaged. The same notes I detected in the unlit aroma returned; hay and earth, with an additional grassy element creeping in. I toasted the foot and lit up.

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Russ Ouellette
Alec Bradley has a history of thinking outside the box.
All you have to do is to look at the Trilogy cigars they used to make; after all, how many stogies are a triangular box-press? So, when the trend started toward larger ring gauges, they decided to pull out all the stops and make an entire line of behemoths. There are six shapes in the Maxx series, starting with a 4 x 46, going to ring gauges up to 60 and lengths as long as 9 1/4 inches.

For my foray into these Honduran-made beasts, I tried The Freak, a 6 38thsinch long stick with a 60 ring. The cigar is firm to the touch and is wrapped with a Nicaraguan Habano leaf of a deep coffee-brown hue, and glistening with oil. The pre-light aroma is earthy, and the draw is easy with just enough resistance and some wood and earth flavors before lighting up.

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Russ Ouellette
Alec Bradley American Classic Cigar ReviewMy next foray into the Alec Bradley lineup is the American Classic Blend, which is a Nicaraguan-made cigar meant to be reminiscent of the milder blends that used to be made in Tampa.
The first thing that struck me was the overall appearance- a nice, satiny mousy-tan wrapper with a very attractive band. The wrapper, which is a Connecticut-seed leaf grown in Honduras, is almost veinless, and at first glance doesn’t even appear to have seams.

The rest of the cigar consists of Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, specially selected and aged for mildness and light body.

The construction, from a superficial viewpoint, is excellent. The wrapper looks so smooth, and the cigar is so uniformly firm, with a very nicely finished cap, that based upon appearance, this cigar, which should retail from about $5 upward (depending upon state and local tobacco taxes), looks much more expensive than it is.

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By Kevin Godbee
Villiger 1888 Robusto Cigar Reviews

La Libertad is a wonderful new cigar from Villiger that just recently hit the U.S. market. Although it has been available overseas for some time, as you’ll read in Greg’s review the American-market version is different than the European La Libertad. I had the pleasure to smoke La Libertad Robusto while sitting and talking to the actual makers of the cigar, José Gabriel Maragoto G. and Adaberto Ruizcalderon at Villiger’s party in Las Vegas. It was immensely enjoyable talking to the actual factory guys while smoking the cigar they helped design and manufacture. We talked about the different tobaccos used, growing, harvesting and curing the leaf, and the aging of the cigars.

It’s been said that a cigar will always taste better if you are smoking it in the presence of the master blender, and there is some truth to that. Señor Ruizcalderon even brought that up. When I told him that I loved the cigar, he humbly replied (in Spanish and translated for me) that it was only because he was there.

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By Kevin Godbee
Villiger 1888 Fuerte Robusto Cigar Reviews

The Villiger 1888 Fuerte is handcrafted in the Dominican Republic under the strict Swiss quality guidelines of Villiger & Sons of Switzerland. Using a blend of tobaccos from several countries and known only to Mr. Heinrich Villiger and a few others, they have purposefully described one of the tobaccos as only "Country X" Ligeros. We actually applaud them for doing this while so many other manufacturers for years still refer to "Havana seed", and all kinds of "Tastes like a Cuban cigar" messages, Villiger takes a refreshingly opposite tact.

They say; "we have created a smoking experience which will transport you to a place and time unique to your mind – with no preconceived thoughts or expectations from (the) knowledge of the tobacco source" (emphasis added).

For decades, Villiger has been best known for producing small cigars, but the 1888 Fuerte has now solidly established them in the premium hand-rolled category. The 1888 Fuerte is without a doubt, an extremely high quality cigar all around. Our panelists gave it accolades in all areas – construction, burn and flavor.

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By Kevin Godbee
Villiger 1888 Robusto Cigar Reviews

Until recently, Villiger was better known for producing small machine-made cigars, but now they are gaining strength in the premium handmade cigar market. The Villiger 1888 Robusto has a little mystery to it as well. One of the countries of origin for the filler leaf is being kept a secret, only to be referred to as “Country X”.

In our separate Cigar Reviews column, we present reviews penned by trained professionals with refined palates. Here, in the Cigar Ratings column we offer you the opinions of our volunteer consumer panelists where you can compare and contrast the different views of three different smokers of the same cigar.

The Villiger 1888 Robusto certainly had some varying opinions from this month’s panelists, and that just goes to show you that it is all a matter of taste. While the average rating is 85, the ratings ranged from a low of 79 to a high of 90. I smoked a couple of these myself and in the realm of mild cigars, it is a very good smoke. If you are mostly fond of medium-full to full bodied cigars, then the Villiger 1888 Robusto is probably not for you. I usually smoke in the medium to full range, but I also have an eclectic palate, and sometimes when I get up quite early at 5:00 am, I feel like smoking a light stick such as this. The Villiger 1888 Robusto is also a great beginner cigar.

Let’s see what our cigar rating panel said.

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