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 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
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 Russ Ouellette
Arturo Fuente Magnum R Vitola 52 Cigar Review
This is a relatively new addition to the Fuente lineup, with a tawny colored Ecuadorian Sun Grown wrapper. These leaves are aged in excess of eight years and come from the lower primings. The combination of using lower capas1 with the additional aging should produce a less spicy and more refined wrapper, and in this case, it does. Add in premium quality Dominican binder and filler tobaccos, it certainly seems like a recipe for success.

My experience has been that any reddish tint in a wrapper leaf indicates a livelier taste, but this cigar belies that. What has happened here is the usual pepper has mellowed out into more of a nutmeg or allspice note, and it lingers below the surface. If the wrapper came from the upper half of the plant, I would expect a more paprika-like hint, but the spice is much more subtle.

The Vitola 52 is an attractive chunky robusto (5 inches long, 52 ring gauge) that has a toasty and tangy pre-light aroma with a nice firmness in the hand. The draw was excellent, as I’ve come to expect from Fuente’s premium lines, and before toasting, I noticed wood and nuts.

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By Cigar Chronicles Staff
Matt Urbano, founder and owner of Urbano Cigars, describes his company’s just-released, second boutique premium cigar:
"Urbano Sumatra has a sweet, earthy flavor that settles into a creamy, ‘chocolaty’ smoke. It has a light, leathery finish and a luxurious white ash. Sumatra’s medium body complements our first introduction this summer, the medium-to-full-bodied Urbano Corojo, and is perfectly suited to mid-morning or early-afternoon relaxation."

The Urbano Sumatra has a sleek, satiny Sumatran wrapper, with an Indonesian binder and Dominican filler blend. Sumatra’s wrapper, like the Urbano Corojo, is triple-fermented, without scalding or other artificial means. This process yields a refined smoke, significantly reducing the tobacco’s nicotine and natural starches and sugars. Combine that with a full two years of aging of the tobaccos, and the result is a flavor-filled but smooth smoke.

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By Cigar Chronicles Staff
Ares Contreras, founder and president of Pride Cigars, Inc., offers his new 809 value-priced premium cigar line, in time for holiday gift-giving. Contreras, a third-generation Cuban-American tabacalero, is in his fourth year of operation, specializing in boutique premium cigars.

The 809 line consists of one of the broadest choices of cigars in the industry, including multiple shapes, wrapper shades, and blends. A rarity in the industry, Contreras created the 809 as both a hand-made long filler cigar (Black band), and the hand-rolled medium-filler Red band. Both fall into the value-priced category … suggested retail pricing for the long-filler Black band tops out at $2.50, while the medium-filler Red band retails for up to $1.60.

Four 809 wrappers are available in both Black and Red labels: A mild and silky Connecticut-seed leaf, which is "shade-grown" under Ecuador’s prevailing high, thin overcast skies; a mild-to-medium Sumatran; a medium-to-full, red-hued Corojo; and, a naturally-fermented full-power, but mellow, Maduro.

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By Russ Ouellette
One of my favorite manufacturers of value priced cigars is Oliva. That’s not to say that all of their cigars are at the low end of the price scale; certainly the Serie V and Master Blends are a bit pricier, but they are outstanding while not being super-costly. But where Oliva really shines are in their value-oriented lines. Their bundled Flor de Olivas are an incredible stick at a bargain-basement price, but their Serie G cigars (in Cameroon and Maduro wrappers) are some of the best examples of a premium smoke at a sub-premium price.

The Serie G Cameroons are cedar boxed, rather than bundled, are nicely trunk-pressed, and just about every shape has an MSRP below $6.00, and are routinely found for less. What really impresses with this brand is that the wrappers on these sticks are true African Cameroon, grown by the same people who supply the Fuentes with the wrapper for the Don Carlos and Hemingway series.

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Casa de Ortez CigarsAltadis U.S.A.’s recently introduced line of Casa de Ortez cigars are very low priced for the budget-conscious cigar smoker.

Handcrafted in Nicaragua by renowned cigar maker Omar Ortez, the smoke is offered in two strengths. The milder version features a hand-selected Connecticut wrapper, while the Ecuadorian Cubano wrapped stick has a rich, full body.

Both versions are packaged in bundles of 20 cigars and are available in the following sizes: Corona (44 X 5), Robusto (50 X 4 ), Toro (50 X 5), Churchill ( 50 X 6) and Belicoso (52 X 6 1/8).

Casa de Ortez cigars retail for $1.50 to $1.83 per stick, which makes them an extraordinary value for a smoke of this high quality.

Casa de Ortez Cigars Bundle of 20