Author Archives: pumaspy

Can you smoke high quality cigars on a budget?

With all the talk of economics and jobs, cigar smokers simply want to find gems on a budget.  After all, our passions shouldn’t suffer just because of bad times, should they? I’ve always stood by the premise of a good smoke is a great experience, no matter the cost, but my tastes as evidenced by this blog have showcased a personal demand for higher priced cigars. 

Quality doesn’t always justify the higher cost, but so far my experiences have been positive.  That being said, I’ve never found problems smoking inexpensive hand rolled premium cigars, because the overall experience has been wonderful.

With the average cost of a cigar in your traditional Brick and Mortar being between $7-$10, we and the difference in online vs  BM prices, we figured we’d aim a little lower for the budget conscious, because I refuse to sacrifice flavor for price.  In short, I won’t smoke tasteless, inexpensive cigars just because I’m on a budget.

A few of the cigars on this list bring the flavor, along with great construction while not being average blends from the multitude of companies out there who make cigars. In short, according to my taste, they’re all winners.PInar Del Rio 1878 Reserva Capa Oscuro

First up, Pinar Del Rio – 1878 Reserva Dominica Capa Oscuro.  A solid cigar with excellent construction and two types of corjoo filler  to provide a spicy experience followed by nutty notes.  Leather on the palate followed by creamy, medium finish

large_brickhouse-toro-single-prod-shotNext  up, BrickHouse – I’m a fan of the toro here, but also the Mighty Mighty Maduro.  Neither cigar is extremely complex, but they’re solid flavors.  Leather and cedar on the Toro with a medium to full finish while the Mighty Mighty boasts coffee and cocoa flavors.  This is actually an old blend from JC Newman Cigars, makers of Diamond Crown.

If you want a real treat, you can look hard enough online and find a vendor who sells Alec Bradley Seconds in either the Tempus or the award winning Prensado blends.  I’ve smoked way too many of both and they’re just as good as the firsts, same draw, same excellent construction, but you’re paying around $2.50 a bundle with no fancy box or band, rather than $9 or more online or in the BM.

Bahia Icon – was a solid blend I had a box of recently.  Full flavor, Bahia Iconplenty of leather and peppery spice with a medium to full finish, the Gran Robusto will give you a good, solid hour of cigar break downtime without disappointing on flavor or putting a major dent in your budget.

Oh, it just dawned on me because I’ve smoked both of these cigars out of samplers and enjoyed them. Alec Bradley American Classic and American Classic Sungrown.  Both cigars come in at under $5 a cigar. The original American Classic features mellow leather and spice notes while the Sungrown is a good expression of sungrown wrappers.

Nothing in this list is overly complicated, but will deliver an experience cigar smokers enjoy.  Downtime, a great conversation starter, or something to pair with your favorite libation while you relax in a passion shared by many others.  What’s on your budget friendly list?

The characters in my upcoming paranormal romance Burning for Derrick are also avid cigar aficionados, often filling their humidors with expensive stick and inexpensive gems alike.   Look for Burning for Derrick coming from Ardent Books soon!

Strength – Trends in Cigar Smoking

Have you noticed more and more cigar makers are adding or expanding their lines to produce stronger cigars?  Not just in nicotine content but flavor?

The market’s demands are changing and from what I’ve been seeing over the last fifteen years of being a cigar smoker is that the customer seems to be demanding bolder flavors, more power and strength which leads to a new challenge for makers.

I’ve been watching the makers of more mild blends like Davidoff and Davidoff NicaraguaMacanudo bring out more intense lines.  Davidoff with their Nicaragua Puro, Macanudo making their mark with a bolder  extension also.

Punch did something about three to four years back by introducing the Uppercut, a spicy white pepper bomb that left me wondering if I’d been drinking after I’d finished my cigar.  Incidentally, I had been drinking herbal tea at the time, but wow was that cigar a kicker.  Yes, other flavors were present but the white pepper hit first.

Joya De Nicaragua initially had one of the strongest cigars on the market, the Antaño 1970, then followed it up with the Dark JdN Dark CorojoCorojo Antaño.  Both were really tasty but I had to be in the mood for the original, and having smoked too many too close together of the Corojo, I made myself sick from too much nicotine one evening.

I remember my first really strong cigar about twelve years ago.  The Rocky Patel Edge. It came in natural and maduro and both cigars were very well priced at the time though it became tough to tell the difference between the maduro and the natural because both had seriously dark wrappers.  I smoked one of those the entire day and I was done, or I could smoke two of something else and be fine.  Yes, a lot of flavor but what a powerhouse cigar it was back in the day.  For me, Mr. Patel set off a trend that we didn’t see gaining momentum until about six years ago when companies like La Flor Dominicana and Joya De Nicaragua started coming out with stronger cigars.

Let’s be honest, the new trend has brought a lot of gems with it, but so will any trend in most industries.  The emergence of so many new boutique cigar makers like Tatuaje and Illusione have spurred the bigger boys like Altadis and Swedish Match to develop unique cigars to hold the public’s interest.  That’s another article though.

Overall, I do enjoy the trend in strength and the higher reaching heights cigar makers are heading toward to create something unique for our palates, but what do you think?  Can the strength be too much?

The characters in my upcoming paranormal romance BurningMax_in_Laris_400x400 for Derrick are also avid cigar aficionados, often filling their humidors with expensive stick and inexpensive gems alike.   Look for Burning for Derrick coming from Ardent Books soon!

The New Cigar Smoker Experience

The first introduction I had to cigars was back in 1998 in college while I was drinking with friends of my parents.  My neighbor brought out a cigar and we shared it while he taught me the finer points of smoking cigars.  They’re meant to be enjoyed, meant to be taken slowly and only smoke them when you have time.  No walking or doing things while smoking cigars, he said.cuesta_rey_centenario_maduro_cigars

That first cigar was my introduction to a world of relaxation and experience unlike anything I could have repeated at the age of 18.  I thought about it from time to time, reflecting on sitting around the front yard and with a cooler full of beer while we listened to old country and blues.   The feelings I’d had begun to develop at the time were counter to my fast paced college behavior but right in line with my philosophy on how life should be lived, according to images I’d seen in Wine Spectator magazine.  Understand I’m barely eighteen at this time, but living a rich, lavish life on low income and being in college didn’t exactly mesh.  But from time to time I made the effort to visit The Smoke Ring, in Clear Lake, TX and pick up a cigar or two until the habit became a hobby.

The first cigar that truly captured more than just ritual attention was the Cuesta Rey #60, a short dark torpedo that, for the first time in my life, exploded with flavor across my tongue.  I’d done some research and began to learn the distinctive properties of a cigar, from construction to flavor profile, country of origin and all the things newbie cigar smokers shouldn’t concern themselves with until they’ve established this as a hobby.  I’d immersed myself in the lifestyle, using cigars as a way to relax once a week, always the same day at the end of my work day, much to my ex’s initial chagrin, until she’d accepted it and even my father (who smoked three packs a day) had finally caved as this became a powerful ritual whereby I went outside with my beverage of choice and carefully clipped the cap off the cigar, toasted the foot, sat back in my chair and took that first draw, bringing a myriad of flavors across my inexperienced tongue.

Padron 1964 AnniversarioThe second cigar I remember making an impression on my palate was much more robust.  Padron, probably the only 6000 of theirs I’ve ever smoked. (I prefer the 4000 or if time permits, the 7000.) I had smoked that particular cigar one night while drinking cognac.  We stayed up late and while the cognac was smooth, the cigar was strong for me at the time.

I’d gone from cigar to cigar, picking up mostly larger brands put out by Altadis or General at the time, staying loyal to them because I didn’t know better about the industry, not thinking it was like any other where there are giants that put out good products but tinier boutiques who are far better because of limited (cough) release or supply.  Padron being one of them.

Fast forward several years later and I’d become a Padron junkie.  I’d developed a far better palate and my smoking experience transformed into something almost zen like as I’d come into Grants Tobacconist once a week at least, pick out two Padron 4000s and sit down with the regulars there, BS for a few hours and smoke both cigars.

My first foray into boutique was Tatuaje.  I’d picked up on a suggestion by my tobacconist, La Riqueza,  The #2 to be exact, because it offered about an hour or so of smoking time and a distinct definitely NOT Padron like experience.  Then I knew I was hooked on trying different things.

If I were to suggest a few cigars everyone starting out should try, the list of top three would be simple:

1. Tatuaje 7th Reserva – This is THE cigar that got me smoking smaller vitolas.  Plenty of flavor on each draw, consistency with every stick Tatuaje 7th Reservaand rich flavors of coffee and savory spices I can still taste though it’s been six months since my last one.

 

2. Don Cervantes Tres Maduro – Yes, this over the Camacho Triple

Tres Maduro by Don Cervantes Cigars: www.acc.ec

Tres Maduro by Don Cervantes Cigars: http://www.acc.ec

Maduro because my palate enjoys the complexity of cocoa and dark chocolate along with the sweet smell of the smoke as it burns evenly.  I did a full review of this cigar and that can be found here.

3: C4 by Viaje – These are fairly easy to find in shops that carry the Viaje line but honestly, the cigars smoke like a steak dinner so make sure you eat.  Full flavor, with enough complexity for experienced

cigar connoisseurs to pick up the subtle notes while newbie cigar smokers can enjoy the tastes across the palate.

The characters in my upcoming paranormal romance Burning for Derrick are also avid cigar aficionados, often filling their humidors with expensive stick and inexpensive gems alike.  What would you suggest new smokers try?  Look for Burning for Derrick coming from Ardent Books soon!

 

What’s most frequently in your Humidor?

La Vina 12 and La Vina 18

ACCC S. E. 12 and ACC S. E. 18

Summer is upon us and that means more sunlight which means more smoking time!  Spending the evenings with a cigar and glass of Larceny bourbon is the perfect way for me to unwind after the first half of my work day. Let me explain.  As a writer, my day is split into two halves:  The first shift in the afternoon, and the second shift consisting of writing.  That being said, my downtime is extremely important.  Something I’ve noticed however is what’s in my normal rotation hasn’t changed that much.  For months due to convenience (and I just like them!) I’ve been smoking Alec Bradley Tempus seconds.  For the price I paid for a bundle, to keep my humidor full, not a bad thing . But I like variety. In fact I crave it.  Last year I’d picked up an ORTSAC sampler from Cigarplace.biz .  This sampler along with the Pinar Del Rio sampler jolted new flavors into my palate and a good range of inexpensive cigars into my humidor.  Now while these cigars are great, they’re not on my normal high end list of cigars to smoke, but then again, that list is a short one and not meant for every day consumption.  Even if I could, I’m not sure I’d smoke a ACC S. E. 12 or ACC S. E. 18 day in and day out.

Masterpiece Platinum by ACC Cigars and glass of cabernet Sauvignon at Occidental Cigar Club, SF

Masterpiece Platinum by ACC Cigars and glass of cabernet Sauvignon at Occidental Cigar Club, SF

That’s why I like the Masterpiece Platinum and Tres Maduro by ACC Cigars, (who also make ACC Special Edition, because those cigars are complex and make me think and enjoy my time smoking on a so much deeper level than say Montecristo’s Media Noche.  The Media Noche is a solid Maduro, but that’s all it is to my palate. After time I grew bored with the Tempus Seconds.  I’ve smoked a LOT of them and love the dark coffee flavors and richness of probably my favorite cigar from Alec Bradley. Recently I discovered Tampa Humidor, who carries Alec Bradley Prensado 2nds, at the same price as the Tempus, so I snagged a box.  Thanks to a surplus in budget, I also picked up the Drew Estate sampler from CigarPlace It always amazes me at cigar smokers who can smoke the same thing day in and day out.  I’m a creature who craves variety, and not smoking for the sake of smoking.  Of course these same people I’ve noticed tend not to experiment, which is fine . Cigar smoking has very few rules.  Like what you smoke, smoke what you like  I tend to lean toward higher end cigars with more complexity.  I won’t lie however.  The Padrón Thousand series tastes the same every single time and is a solid, well constructed cigar.  I’ll reach for that cigar every single time with the understanding that it’s a  Padrón kind of day. The characters in my upcoming release Burning for Derrick are also avid cigar smokers as a way to take away the stress from their lives.  Derrick and his brother Max share a common theme in their dealings in espionage, which breeds many issues including nightmares and the need to find peace in downtime.  Both men enjoy the silence and smoke from a great cigar and keep a wide variety of cigars in their over sized humidors. What are staples in your humidor? Be sure to look for Burning for Derrick, my upcoming paranormal romance release from Ardent Books, coming soon!