Amazon $35 Gift Certificate Giveaway

Amazon

As I stated in my best cigar books post, proceeds from sale of books would be given back to one lucky reader in the form of a gift certificate. Here is another one. It is a gift card for $35 that can be redeemed on Amazon.com (doesn't work on .co.uk or .fr).

Just leave a comment on this post to be entered in the draw. The winner will be announced in one week, next Thursday.

17th Annual Habanos Festival Kicks off in Havana

17th Annual Habanos Festival Kicks off in Havana

The 17th Annual Habanos festival kicked off on February 23rd at the Palacio de Convenciones, and will run through the 27th of the month. Participants were welcomed to the event at the historic Almacén del Tabaco y la Madera at the port of Havana. Yesterday gave manufacturers, suppliers, and enthusiasts from around the world an opportunity to network.

Scheduled events for this year’s festival include pairings between Habanos and Chianti wines, lectures on Habanos, and master classes. There will also be contests, including the longest ash competition and the Habanosommelier International Contest. Participants will also be able to tour the plantations of Vuelta Abajo and the historic H. Upmann Habanos and La Corona factories on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, the 25th Anniversary of la Casa del Habano will be celebrated at the Salón de Protocolo de El Laguito. Finally, the event will conclude with the Gala Evening, when the Montecristo brand will launch its much anticipated 80th Anniversary vitola. Guests will have the opportunity to sample the special vitola during the gala dinner. Finally, awards will be given out and custom humidors will be auctioned off to benefit the Cuban Public Health System.

One of the highlights of this year’s festival is the Taste of Tuscany. This is the pairing event where participants can enjoy the nuanced flavors of Habanos and Chianti wines. Participating vineyards include Pieve De’Pitti, Castello del Trebbio, Azienda Agricola Pugliano, and Chianti Colli Fiorentini. The first two vineyards will provide wines to be tasted with the Montecristo Open Eagle, and the second two will provide wines to be tasted with Le Hoyo San Juan. Latin Grammy winner Descemer Bueno will perform his greatest hits at the tasting event, and renowned Belgian chef Anne Marie Lauwers will provide a delicious fusion of Asian, European, and Cuban cuisine for the guests.

Romeo y Julieta Gran Reserva Wide Churchill

Another key event during the Habanos Festival is the presentation of the new Romeo y Julieta Gran Reserva Wide Churchill vitola. This highly anticipated cigar uses filler, binder and wrapper leaves which have all been aged for five years, handpicked from the Vuelta Abajo region. The notes are mild, well-balanced, and subtly nuanced for delicious aromas and flavors. Only 5,000 numbered boxes are being produced.

With the festival already underway, this is a very exciting time for cigar enthusiasts in Havana and around the world! Are you able to attend the Habanos Festival this year? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!

Whisky Review: Tullibardine Sovereign

Tullibardine Sovereign

In 2013, the Perthshire distillery of Tullibardine announced a re-launch of their single malt whisky range. The re-launch affected both what’s inside the bottles and what’s on them, with a total re-branding and the new tagline, “A drop of pure Highland gold.” The new lines became available in May in the United States. Why the change? According to international sales manager James Robertson, the distillery was starting to feel like they were slipping behind the times.

The principle whisky line produced at the distillery before the re-branding was the Tullibardine Aged Oak, which didn’t include an age statement. Robertson explained the problem with the Aged Oak, which the Sovereign has now replaced: “The previous bottles that were available were good, but there seemed to be little continuity, consumers could not identify with the brand, and the vintage dates confused them … we feel that Sovereign has a more powerful image and one with a meaning.” With the re-branding, the distillery has also raised their prices, stating that they were previously selling their whiskies well below their market value. “I feel that these six new whiskies at last provide Tullibardine with a core range that has an identity,” said Robertson.

So how does this “drop of pure Highland gold” measure up? I decided to put the Tullibardine Sovereign to the test. In the bottle, it certainly looks like gold—the rich warmth of the color is beautiful, and a hopeful hint of what is inside.

Opening the bottle, I feel like someone has just handed me a fresh bouquet. There are some strong floral notes in here, interwoven with honey, peaches, toffee and vanilla. It’s hard to say for sure what the floral notes are, but they are not at all sharp, nicely mellowed out by the vanilla and toffee. On the palate, the Tullibardine Sovereign is very smooth and viscous, perhaps even more so than it appeared in the bottle. I taste some kind of vanilla pastry sweetness, which grows as I hold the liquid on my tongue. Then I pick up orange rind and peaches, together with the distinctive bite of fresh ginger. There seems to be a hint of chocolate in here as well. The finish is quite brief; this one definitely doesn’t linger. The ginger dominates the finish along with some other spices.

While the finish is a bit brief for my liking, the flavors are nice and rich, and the ginger does a nice job balancing out the other elements. I am surprised that the floral notes I detect with my nose don’t really seem to come out on the palate, but it is an enjoyable dram, and I was concerned they’d take over. I particularly enjoy the smooth, viscous texture of the dram; it is almost velvety. While it is not the most amazing scotch whisky I have tried at the price point (around $42), it is still quite good, and I would try it again. The Tullibardine re-branding appears to me to have been a success.

Summary: Tullibardine Sovereign

Colour: Bright gold.

Nose: Strongly floral, together with honey, vanilla, peaches and toffee.

Palate: Vanilla pastry, orange rind, peaches, ginger, chocolate, spices.

How Far Down Should You Smoke a Cigar?

Davidoff Grand Cru No. 1

I just received the following question from a reader:

“How far should one smoke a cigar? Down to the band? Or, until you need to be hospitalized for 3rd degree burns on your fingertips?”

Good question, and one with varying answers.

If you turn to “cigar etiquette” sources, you might have heard you should never smoke more than half a cigar (downright ridiculous, if you ask me). Another common “rule” is that you should set your cigar down and let it burn itself out (not snuff it out) when three finger-widths are left, measured from the end.

Of course, that really only matters if you are smoking in the company of people who care more about arbitrary and rather questionable rules on etiquette than they do about reaping all the enjoyment they can out of a good stogie. You pay a lot for your cigars, so you should be able to enjoy them to their fullest.

There really are no hard-and-fast rules on how far down you can smoke your cigar. A lot of it depends on the cigar in question, as well as your personal tastes. Some cigars get hot and harsh well before you reach the nub. Some of those cigars you might very well want to abandon before you get even halfway. Others taste great right to the very end, and with those, you may very well decide it’s worth the risk of burning your fingers to take it down to the nub. With time and experience, you’ll know which cigars you’re likely to be able to burn down all the way.

If pain isn’t your thing and you’d rather not burn your fingers, there’s a handy device you can purchase for less than $15 called the Havana Saver Cigar Tool. When you’re getting down toward the nub, you can insert the Havana Saver into your cigar and use it to hold your stogie. It doubles as a cigar holder at the golf course and a draw poke, and it’s highly rated by customers.

Havana Saver

So how far down should you smoke a cigar? As far down as you want!

Beyond Vanilla: Cigar Suggestions for the Lady Smoker

Nikki Glenn

Today we've got another guest post from Nikki Glenn, a cigar aficionada from St. Louis and a violinist entertainer for private, corporate and special events worldwide. She loves learning about and smoking cigars as much as possible.

Many female smokers are introduced to cigar smoking by way of the flavored cigar. I've enjoyed smoking cigars for quite a few years, and I still remember my first cigar smoking experience. I was on a gig, and one of the other musicians was smoking what I thought was a cigarette, but it smelled great. When I asked what it was, he explained it was a cigarillo. I tried one and was immediately hooked. I loved the flavor and the aroma, and to my twenty-something self, I thought I was so cool doing it. Now, this was not the most expensive cigarillo ever made – it was an Indiana Slim, special because they were rum-flavored (again, awesome-sounding to my younger self). From cigarillos, I graduated straight to flavored full-sized cigars – vanilla, chocolate, rum, you get the picture. These were the designated “women's” cigars at the time, and I'm pretty sure that these are still considered “ladies” cigars.

However, while flavored cigars are definitely a more gentle introduction to the world of cigars, there are some delightful smokes that go beyond the basic flavors, that I encourage lady smokers to try. I've utilized a gradual approach in incorporating these cigars into my smoking regimen, and I wanted to share with you five of the cigars that have become my “go-to” cigars, both flavored and unflavored.

Drew Estate's ACID cigars are my top flavored pick. They are infused with flavors through some closely guarded, super-secret recipe I imagine is something like KFC's 11 herbs and spices. My two favorite smokes are the ACID Toast and the ACID Cold Infusion, both of which I find mild and sweet, with enjoyable aromas while smoking, and a pleasant taste in the mouth. The ACID line really can't be defined in terms of specific flavors like “vanilla” or “rum” flavor – they are more like flavor “experiences”, but I think that the complexity is very appealing. I encourage the ladies out there to give these a try.

I would like to take this time to point out that I'm still learning my palate when it comes to unflavored cigars, so I cannot speak to the hints of cinnamon, elderberry flower, or whatnot that many more experienced smokers can detect in the following cigars. I can tell you that I enjoy them, and I think you will too. That being said, if you're not in the mood to smoke a flavored cigar, or you are ready for something different, I recommend the Alec Bradley Family Blend, the Nat Sherman Timeless No. 2, or the Oliva Serie V.

The Alec Bradley Family Blend was one of my first unflavored cigar smokes, and I instantly loved its smooth, toasty taste. The Alec Bradley is my choice for end-of-the day smoke to enjoy, just enough body without being too strong. The Nat Sherman Timeless No. 2 is also medium-bodied but has a little more complexity of flavor to me, tasting more of warm spices. This is a cigar that I would definitely suggest to accompany an evening of drinking fine spirits and enjoying the company of friends. My current favorite is the Oliva Serie V, which is a smoke with great body, and somehow reminds me of a rich cup of coffee without really being coffee-flavored. I found myself smelling this cigar for quite a while before I actually smoked it, and really wanting to linger over the smoke. This is definitely my most recommended cigar of the moment.

Oliva Serie V Torpedo

I encourage lady smokers to be unafraid to explore cigars past the usual “ladies” cigars. Talk to your fellow cigar smokers, to your tobacconist, and don't be shy about discovering what you really like, and don't be ashamed of what you like either. The wonderful thing about cigar-smoking is that everyone's experience is unique and personal. Happy smoking to you!

AVO Limited Edition 2010

avo-le-2010-1

Avo CigarsOrigin : Dominican Republic
Format : Super Robusto
Size : 5 ½ x 55
Wrapper : Ecuador
Filler : Dominican Republic
Binder : Mexico
Hand-Made
Price : $15 each MSRP
More info about purchasing Avo cigars...

Having been formally introduced to the cigar market in March 2010 (to celebrate AVO Uvezian’s 84th birthday), with only 10,000 cigars being produced, the AVO Limited Edition 2010 is now far from fresh on many cigar smoker’s minds. The AVO LE 10’s were available in boxes of 10 that used to retail for $150.00 a box. Today, these can only be found on the aftermarket.

Read the full review of AVO Limited Edition 2010...

The Best Tabletop Cigar Lighter

The Best Tabletop Cigar Lighter

Finding the right cigar lighter is a personal matter. We all have our preferences, and there are lots of lighter styles from which to choose. But ultimately, what we cigar smokers require from a lighter is universal: a solid flame that lights each and every time we pull the trigger. That’s not a lot to ask, but over the years I’ve been amazed at how many pocket lighters fail within the first few months of use. The only such lighter I’ve been satisfied with is the S.T. Dupont MaxiJet. Although relatively expensive ($150 street price), it’s an investment worth making.

But everyday cigar smoking lends itself more to a tabletop lighter. One popular model is the Vector Megapump. I’ve used this lighter and it seems to works well. Not having owned one, I can’t attest to its reliability. And at prices above $100, it too is an investment. But there are two lighters I’ve been using, literally for years, and both are my workhorses for everyday cigar smoking: the Blazer Piezo Micro Torch and the Blazer ES-1000. These run in the $50 range.

The Blazer Piero Micro Torch

The secret to the reliability of these lighters is the fact that neither is actually a cigar lighter. They are jeweler’s torches, designed for prolonged use and ruggedness. Yet they make the perfect cigar lighter. The torch flame is strong and pointed, directing the heat exactly where you want it. And with huge fuel tanks, they require infrequent refueling. I’ve become so dependent on the Blazer that I carry one in my cigar bag. The poor little MaxiJet doesn’t get much use anymore.

The Blazer ES-1000 has one-touch operation.

If you want a solid, dependable, and economical cigar lighter, I recommend getting a Blazer. Either unit is terrific, although lighting the Piezo Micro Torch requires first turning on the gas, then pushing the ignition. The ES-1000 is a one-touch operation. One caveat is that some newer ES-1000 units have a locking mechanism that is a pain to operate. My friend got one of those and we immediately broke off the annoying plastic lock. I can’t say enough about these invaluable cigar accessories. I hope this bit of information leads you all to a better cigar smoking experience.

Villiger Colorado

Villiger Colorado

Origin : Dominican RepublicVilliger Cigars
Format : Double Robusto
Size : 5.5 x 54
Wrapper : Jalapa Colorado
Filler : Nicaraguan
Binder : Esteli Habano and Ometepe Habano
Hand-Made
Price : $9.50 each
More info about purchasing Villiger Colorado cigars...

This review was written by El Cigar Newbie, who recently launched his blog at 4madur0.wordpress.com. Enjoy!

My vast knowledge of smoking a wide variety of cigars for about a whopping three years, certainly qualifies my AKA as el-cigar-newbie, and I do blog for the el-newbie nation. In this time line I have bought packs, samplers, bundles, mazos etc. As if that was not enough, three Humidors later, I joined the Cigar of the Month Club online at cigarsinternational.com. My love for cigars is growing, and getting more cigars at a bargain price is always appealing. Yesterday my monthly club sampler was delivered and the first cigar was randomly picked, cut and lit before looking at the cigar band. I just love surprises!

Read the full review of Villiger Colorado...

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