Oliva Serie V Melanio Grand Reserva

Today I’m smoking the 2014 #1 rated cigar. It’s a beautiful surprisingly warm February day in Pittsburgh and I’m sitting on my back porch, absolutely loving this.
The full bodied Sumatra from Ecuador provides a dark, rich sweetness on the pre-light. As usual I went with a straight cut and upon lighting I get honey, sugar cane, caramel, and rich black tea. The retrohale gives me notes of butterscotch on coffee ice cream.

The first three or four puffs on the first third were a little harsher than I prefer but then it opened up beautifully and mellowed into the soft sweetness I love.

The second third is just the slightest bit bitter, like baking chocolate and a bit spicy without being to peppery. Also the signature black coffee notes of the Nicaraguan filler really steps up it’s presence but the softness never waivers.

Entering the final third of the stick the sweetness is back in full force. I would like to take a moment to comment on the draw. Normally I’m not impressed with the draw of a box pressed cigar and usually find it too loose for my liking but this is damn-near perfect.

The aromas coming off this stick remind me of the bay rum fragrance my grandfather always wore. It’s sweet, warm, and welcoming. Blended beautifully with the sweetness is a richer spiciness at the end of the draw. It’s like really fantastic Indian food.

Normally I don’t pay too much attention to cigar ratings and accolades but this stick is truly worth every once of praise it has received. This is a perfect cigar on a perfect day.

10 out of 10

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Fuente Casa Cuba Divine Inspiration.

Today I’m starting my morning with a cup of coffee and the Fuente Casa Cuba Divine Inspiration. A co-worker I really respect loves these cigars so I was really excited to try it.

The pre-light draw is pretty great, soft and smooth with hints of nuttiness and pies being made for Christmas. Now I’m even more excited because I love most Fuente’s and this seems sure not to disappoint.

The first thing I notice when I light it is how smooth it is. There is absolutely no harshness to the smoke and it tastes a bit like pancakes and rum…the true breakfast of champions. After a few puffs I decide to let it rest a moment.

When I return to the cigar I’m deep in the first third and it’s shifted from a winter flavor to thoughts of spring. Gardening, fresh soil, vegetables and spring dew come to the forefront with hints of cashew. A retrohale through the nose amplifies the buttery, nuttiness.

The second third of this stick opens with a lot more of that nutty flavor, cashews, roasted peanuts, and almonds are all present and a smooth buttery feel all add up to a wholly pleasant experience. I’m quickly reminded why I respect my co-worker’s opinion so highly.

I’m solidly halfway through the stick when the Fuente signature comes through. Its bold and robust without being overwhelming. It pairs so nicely with my coffee but I imagine it would also pair beautifully with my beloved rum and coke.

If someone came along and told me I could only smoke one cigar for the rest of my days I would have to strongly consider making this one it. I’m getting soft notes of nutmeg and cinnamon with plenty of sweetness. Its almost like getting a warm hug from an old familiar friend.

The very tail end of the second third is rich and sweet like whipped cream on hot chocolate. I decide to let it rest again before entering the back third. The after taste in my mouth is so pleasing. I almost wish the aroma of this stick was available as a fine fragrance I could wear.

I’m pulling the ring off of this cigar and that makes me incredibly sad because I know this lovely adventure is coming to a close. I’ve let it rest too long and require a re-light but that’s ok. Any extra time I get to spend with this guy is time well appreciated.

The back third is much more intense and almost stings my nose but that’s not a bad thing. The pancake flavor is back and much more intense as are the rich, deep notes of soil and an aroma that reminds me of opening a fresh bag of coffee.

From start to finish this has been a truly enjoyable experience. I would have no qualms about recommending this stick to most smokers. Avid, daily cigar enthusiasts would appreciate it’s masterfully blended flavors and moderate smokers will love the feeling of entering the next level of true cigar love.

I might not recommend this stick to a novice smoker. Not because it would overwhelm them but because I don’t think they would fully recognize and appreciate the complexity of it. I’m a bit selfish and one cigar they couldn’t truly enjoy is one less fantastic smoke for me.

Bravo Fuente. Word has it that this was the very last blend ever created by Don Carlo before he left this world and what a high note to go out on.

10 out of 10


A new year, a new chapter, the Davidoff Aniversario

Hello and welcome to my first cigar review of 2017. I hope the new year brings you nothing but joy. Tonight I’m smoking the Davidoff Aniversaro. For those that don’t know this blend of Dominican filler wrapped in an Ecuadorian leaf was created to commemorate Zino Davidoff’s 80th birthday.

I chose the short perfecto because it’s been a long day and I wasn’t in the mood for an all night smoke. I regret that decision because this is an amazing smoke and I should have chosen something longer.

The pre-light is soft and sweet with heavy notes of cedar and caramel. After the light the foot is a bit bitter but not unenjoyable. I take a few puffs and sip Glenmorangie.

When I return to the smoke the sweetness is much stronger and the cigar is incredibly aromatic. There’s an acrid note in the exhale like burning autumn leaves. I wasn’t expecting a medium body but I was presently surprised to find it.

I’m through the first third and right into the fat part of this stick. It’s intense and stings my tongue a little but it’s not bad. The flavors are rich and thick like strolling through the woods after a rain fall. It reminds me of camping out with my grandfather, sitting by the campfire waiting for the beans to cook.

The smoke, true to a Davidoff is smooth and creamy like drinking fresh milk. In the middle of this stick the cedar REALLY steps forward and almost crushes the other flavors. I love it.

As I burn through the second third the sweetness returns. There’s a note of agave, a rich earthy flavor and something I can’t quite place, like a pumpkin or a butternut squash. I know it’s the middle of winter but this would be a perfect fall cigar.

The back third takes on a completely different character. It playfully jabs the back of my throat with grassy notes, pepper, and spice. For as smooth as the rest of this cigar was I’m honestly a little surprised by it. There’s also a mineral note to it, something almost chalky.

Overall if someone were to walk into my humidor and tell me they’re a big fan of the classic signature series but they wanted something more complex and robust I would put this stick in their hands.

Its mild medium body is refreshingly rich but not overwhelming.

I give this an easy 9 out of 10.


Davidoff Millennium

Tonight Santa brought me a Davidoff Millennium blend. My drink tonight is a Booker’s whiskey sour. Merry Christmas.

I went with my usual straight cut and the pre-light draw through is of black coffee. Not just any black coffee but a very specific brew. As soon as I draw on this stick I’m transported back to the all night diner my friends and I hung out at in high school. There’s a Denny’s there now but before it was a Denny’s they served a particular sludge that tasted like it had been sitting on a burner for DAYS in a glass carafe that had never been washed.

The pre light is dark and rich and peppered with nostalgia and lost dreams. After toasting the foot I light and I am honestly, truly surprised. The smooth, creamy Davidoff signature is there but the body is much fuller than I would have expected. 

Usually with a Davidoff white label I notice woods like oak and Spanish cedar and a deep nutty flavor like walnuts or pecans but this stick has none of that. Instead it’s a rich creamy flavor like Bailey’s Irish Cream and Amaretto.

I draw the smoke into my mouth and let my tongue float for a minute in the heavy flavor. I get an acidic note, a sweet note, an acrid note like coffee and something almost mineral like a chalk. Its not at all unpleasant.

When I exhale through my nose the sweat flavors are much more apparent. Caramel, maple syrup, and powdered sugar are right up front. 

The second third is much more subdued. It tastes a bit like Ethiopian coffee with French vanilla ice cream in it. It could just be the whiskey sour talking but the nicotine seems much stronger in this than other Davidoffs. I’m a bit woozy. To be honest it’s a welcome sensation I did NOT expect from a Davidoff.

I’m over half-way through this stick and as silly as it sounds, I can REALLY taste the sun on the leaves. A lot of care went into making this cigar and it’s very apparent. We don’t carry any Cubans in my humidor but if someone came in asking for something similar to an H. Upmann I would refer them this cigar all day long.

I’m into the final third now and as expected everything has intensified. The black coffee notes have transitioned into espresso. The sweet notes of caramel and powdered sugar are so strong they’re almost syrupy. I simply can’t get over how bold and robust the flavors are for a Davidoff. The smoke from the back third is very thick and the acidity is very strong.

This cigar, like any Davidoff is truly refined. The Dominican leaves are perfectly aged and the Ecuadorian wrapper gives off notes of soft white pepper. The sweet luxurious cocoa notes of the back third make it almost decadent.

I can’t give this cigar anything short of 9 out of ten stars.


Nat Sherman 85th Anniversary

Tonight I’m smoking a cigar I’ve been really looking forward too. The night is colder than it’s been in awhile and my city is experiencing its first snowfall, why not warm things up with a nice Nat Sherman?

I’ve been becoming more and more of a fan of Nat Sherman for the past five years and I’m extremely excited to try the 85th anniversary stick. The prelight is much more earthy than I’m used to in my experience with Sherman. There’s also a sweetness and a dark spice lingering in the background.

I light this stick up and notice some chalky notes but alsoa deep sweetness like baking chocolate. For as dark as the stick is it’s surprisingly mild. I’m drinking a Breckenridge Amber that is pairing very nicely.

As I draw the smoke into my mouth and allow it to hang a moment against my tongues and cheeks. I notice a lot of sweetness backed by bitter, salty notes. I pull it into my lungs and let it drift out my nose. The smoke is so smooth it causes no discomfort. 

Halfway through this smoke it takes an unexpected turn. The sweetness is still there but it’s taking a back seat to bold woods and delightful spiciness. I’m reminded of my college girlfriend. She was absolutely beautiful and even though she was engaged to another man when I met her I had to steal her away. She was sweet, beautiful, sensual, and completely crazy. This stick is no different.

In the back third it changes again. It’s become bold, full-bodied and as strange as it sounds, overly smokey. Even though it’s robust I still enjoy it. 

At least… I did. I pulled the ring off but after the next puff I had to put it down. Its rare I don’t finish a smoke but I have to give up. Its so sour, so acidic, I just can’t continue to smoke it. 

I’m going to rate this in two phases: The first two thirds are incredible and everything I’ve come to expect from a Nat Sherman. 8 out of 10. The last third just got worse and worse. 1 out of 10.


La Aurora Preferidos Double Barrel Aged

I’ve only ever smoked one La Aurora before and honestly don’t remember much about it so I’m going into this one pretty much blind. I got this stick as a gift from a dear friend of mine so as I sat craving a stick to enjoy just after midnight, I decide to go with this one.

The prelight is incredibly woody and warm with huge notes of charred oak, cedar, and elm. Perhaps even more apparent than the wood is black pepper, which doesn’t excite me but my double guillotine has already sheared the cap and it’s too late to turn back now. I pour myself a full glass of Booker’s neat and decide to dive in.

As I’m toasting the cigar and giving it a Havana roll the smell of wet, green leaves rises into my nose, which is interesting because the wrapper is a deep brown like a well worn leather jacket and remarkably oily.

After lighting I decide to let it rest a moment and sip my Booker’s and perhaps it’s just the color of the wrapper playing tricks on me but the cigar is starting to smell leathery.

The first real draw I take is not impressive. It tastes like this cigar was already lit, smoked for awhile and then let to sit out for three or four days. The smoke is hot and dry and reminds me of standing on the assembly pad at Lackland Air Force Base in late August. For as cold as it is in the rust belt tonight that might almost be a welcome sensation except for the fact that the massive black pepper taste is overwhelming everything else.

I’m crossing the halfway point now and I’ve finished half of my bourbon and I realize the boldness of this stick is so thoroughly crushing the taste of my whiskey that I might as well be drinking water, which is an impressive feat if you’re familiar with Booker’s. There’s a lot of wet bark that reminds me of all the time I spent in the woods as a kid and one again that dominate black pepper.

I know when I describe cigars I compare them frequently to romantic experiences I’ve had and I won’t diverge from that now. After my divorce I dated a lot of women but the first one I had a true relationship with was a spooky, magical woman 2 years my senior. She had a small frame, jet black hair, deep dark eyes and huge…tracts of land, and she was the most bold, dominate and powerful woman I’d ever met. This cigar is no different.

In the back third the cigar has mellowed quite a bit. Perhaps it’s my memories of that wonderful woman and our lust-filled, passionate time together but this stick is growing on me. The pepper has backed off quite a bit and I can now appreciate the rich, robust complexity of the flavor profile.

It’s still dark and rich but there’s a sweetness like honey and smoked paprika with a little brown sugar.

Overall the stick smoked well with a lovely medium draw but the unpleasantness of the first two thirds simply cannot be overcome by the mellowness and sweetness of the last third. I can only describe this stick as a punch in the mouth.

While it’s not for me, if you prefer a HUGE smoke that gives no quarter to your palate, this may be for you. 

5 out of ten.


Davidoff Escurio

It’s mid-November and there’s a fake rubber bat still adorning the entrance to my humble abode. Whether it’s my love of all things Halloween clinging like a dead man’s hand to the last scraps of the previous month’s holiday or my inherent laziness about such trivial things as seasonal decorations I haven’t taken him down and have no plans too.
It’s a surprisingly warm November night in Pittsburgh with a gentle breeze which causes my little lifeless friend to bob up and down on his elastic string. I sit here about to light my last cigar of the night and think about how lucky that inanimate bat-shaped piece of rubber may be. 

He doesn’t have to deal with ignorant people screaming their opinions and shaming you for your own. He doesn’t have to face a future in questionable peril with so many aspects he can’t control. He just has to hang there, enjoying the breeze.

The Escurio is a blend of Brazilian and Dominican tobacco that I’ve heard described as peppery multiple times. I don’t really enjoy big pepper notes so I’m not looking forward to this but at this point in my career I should learn to trust in my own mantra of approaching every cigar with an open mind.

I go with a rather generous straight cut, taking off more of the cap than I usually do. Thanks to my high blood alcohol content after more than a few Cuba libres I sheared off a borderline dangerous amount.

The prelight isn’t peppery at all, in fact it reminds me of standing on the back of my grandfather’s wagon, bailing hay. Dry grass, alfalfa, lemongrass, and wheat are really jumping out at me.

I put my trusty triple torch to it and puff expecting my mouth to dry out and my throat to close up from the pepper I’ve heard so much about but it doesn’t happen. To the contrary my salvation producing glands kick into high gear and my tastebuds do a dance of happiness.

Even with the huge cut the draw is tight and slow, which I don’t care for and I constantly worry it’s not properly lit but it doesn’t go out. The mouth feel is actually very underwhelming but the taste is bold and impressive.

After a few deep puffs the taste is like a well constructed salad with baby spinach, field greens, cucumber, onion and tomato topped with a strawberry vinaigrette. 

Halfway into the smoke the balance remains dancing seductively between the previously mentioned green notes and sweet stone fruits like peachs and mangos. The draw hasn’t loosened at all but the smoke isn’t hot. I’m puffing this almost like a cigarette, pulling every draw into my lungs and out through my nose to squeeze every possible flavor out of it.

Just a little over half-way through I’m finally getting that pepper everyone’s told me about but it isn’t an offensive, acidic black pepper, it’s more like a jalapeno that’s been cooked in fat, wrapped in bacon and smoked in my trusty smoker for about an hour. The heat is just barely there. 

In the back third all of the previous flavors remain but they take a back seat to cedar, black walnut, beech nut woods and a Brazil nut flavor. There’s an excitement to this stick that is absolutely fantastic. 

If I close my eyes I’m transported back to the first time I went to a burlesque show and momentarily fell in love with a Latina girl dancing to “Down in Mexico”. Just as she swayed and slowly swung her hips revealing more and more of her bronze body this cigar reveals more and more delightful flavor.

I remove the rings so that I can smoke through the last inch of this cigar and I’m truly saddened I didn’t get a longer one. The flavor profile turns dark and mysterious like a deep espresso but the overall taste is still that of medium bodied, well balanced stick.

Final thought before I burn my fingers it’s that this is an amazingly enjoyable smoke. I crave a big meal like a large plate of spaghetti or a fine steak but I’m not sad I don’t have one.

Davidoff has absolutely nailed another perfect cigar and despite my feelings at the beginning I no longer envy the decorative bat on my porch because as unaffected by the trials of life as he may be, he’ll never get to partake of such a luxurious experience.

9 out of 10.