Round 2: Opus X Super Belicoso Cigar Review

After my last horrible experience with an Opus X, I was very hesitant to try another one, but a buddy of mine gifted me an Opus X Super Belicoso (purchased at the Cigar Loft and Lounge) and after letting it rest in my humidor for a good few months, it was finally time to tackle this firecracker. If you haven’t read my review of the Opus X Churchill I had, long story short: I didn’t like it, couldn’t finish it, and didn’t like it. I’ll talk a bit more about that in this review.

Opus X Super Belicoso

Origin: Dominican Republic
Format: Belicoso (Figurado)
Size: 6.5
Ring: 52
Box Date Code: n/a
Wrapper: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Binder: Dominican Republic
Made: Handmade
Strength: Medium/Full
Smoke Time: ~66 minutes
Price: ~$30/each

Construction

With very tiny veins and no blemishes, this is one of the most beautifully constructed cigar I’ve ever smoked. An Opus X cigar could be used as the gold standard by which all other cigars should be constructed. When this Super Belicoso is squeezed, there is no sponginess or soft spots, just firmness throughout the body and inspecting the foot, the leaves are bunched nicely together with no visible gaps, indicating a very skillful torcedor.

With such great construction, the burn line is excellent requiring no burn corrections. The mostly solid white ash builds easily to almost 2-inches before breaking off. If you look in the pictures below, you can see how very nice the ash is!

I also wanted to take a moment and recognize the amazing artwork and effort that goes into the Opus X cigar band. It is by far one of the most ornate and beautiful cigar bands I’ve ever seen grace a cigar.

After snipping off a bit of the head and taking a pre-light draw, I was immediately rewarded with perfect draw, not too tight or loose with just enough resistance. And after conversing with my smoking buddy, we’ve came to the conclusion that the last Opus X I had suffered from an extremely tight draw. It kept going out on me and a number of times I tried to “save” it from going out and I most likely got sick from the hyperventilating. With the perfect draw from this Super Belicoso, I was able to blow out opulent clouds of smoke.

Flavors and Taste

Pre-light draw revealed some nice pepper and wood and I knew this was going to be a fun tasting cigar from the get-go. The first-third of the Opus X starts off as a weak medium body that gives you a preview of things to come with predominate flavors of wood, tobacco and a taste of nuts, all in a nice creamy package. By the second-third, some spicy notes and pepper start getting introduced to the wood and nuts flavor and the cigar begins developing into a medium bodied smoke, still quite enjoyable. By the final-third, the Opus X is at it’s stronger taste, medium-full body. The creaminess has subsided a bit and becomes slightly bit bitter while the other flavors (wood, tobacco, nuts, pepper, and spicy) become more pronounced, but nothing unpleasant.

This is one of those cigars that you need to be patient with to fully enjoy. Suck this thing down in less than 30-minutes and you’ll probably be quite sick. To get the full enjoyment of the flavors, take a puff every 30-seconds to a minute. I personally was at a puff every 30-seconds and it took me over an hour to enjoy this Super Belicoso.

Value

SUCKS! MSRP for an Opus X is generally $11.50 ((http://www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Static/BigSmoke/Vegas2001/fuentes_dd.html)), but because of the supply and demand for these, most places sell these upwards of $30 each. If you find a place that sells them for MSRP, please let me know.

Conclusion

So the big question is, is the Opus X Super Belicoso worth ~$30? For the most part, no, but that depends on the person you ask. For me, when I’m paying for a cigar, I’m looking for value in that the flavors and taste is what I like worth how much it cost and how long it takes to enjoy it. The flavors and taste were very good, but otherwise uneventful for me. As I was smoking the Opus X with my buddy, half way through he mentioned I looked bored and I was. The flavors never really change and only get a bit stronger as you near the finish.

And while this Opus X Super Belicoso took over a solid hour to finish, the price is a bit sticking point for me. I have enjoyed a number of other cigars, including my current all time favorite the Montecristo No. 2, at the ~$10 or less mark and wouldn’t hesitate to grab one of those over the Opus X Super Belicoso any day. But if I was able to purchase these at the $11.50 price point, I would’t hesitate purchasing more sticks to have in my humidor.

As it is a tradition with Opus X cigars, I was left with a nice parting gift in the form of a nicotine buzz that lasted for maybe 15-20 minutes.

Be sure to check-out these other great reviews on the Opus X Super Belicoso:

Opus X Super Belicoso Gallery Pics

Cohiba Esplendido, Cuba’s Best Cigar?

The Cohiba Esplendidos often considered one of the finest Cuban cigars in the world as it is the perhaps the most counterfeited ((http://www.wsbt.com/news/consumer/17369179.html)) ((http://www.stogieguys.com/2008/05/05202008-stogie-review-cohiba-esplendido-cuban.html)). It’s not hard to see why: each cigar cost upwards of $30 USD, there is a huge profit margin to be made by counterfeiters and unless you regularly smoke the Esplendidos, it can be difficult to spot a fake. There are a number of great websites such as Havana Journal which has detailed photos and information on identifying fake or counterfeit Cohiba Esplendidos, but the old adage of “If it’s too good to be true…” should be a good starting point, although that’s not always the case. But this post isn’t about how to spot fakes, but what rather if the Cohiba Esplendido is as good as everyone says it is.

Cohiba Esplendidos

Origin: Cuban
Format: Churchill/Julieta No.2
Size: 6.9
Ring: 47
Wrapper: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Made: Handmade
Strength: Medium-Full
Smoke Time: ~80 minutes
Price: $30 per each, $18.60 in a box of 25

Construction

I have always found how unimpressive looking the Esplendidos are; other than for the famous Cohiba cigar band and the large size, there is nothing distinguishing or flashy. Compared to how beautifully constructed a Fuente Opus X is, the Esplendido looks like a Honda Accord next to a Ferrari. There are few minor veins on an otherwise smooth dark caramel wrapper.

The two Esplendidos I’ve had so far did not have any burn issues, but did need a few burn corrections. My buddy who also smoked one with me did experience some crazy burn issues that resulted in a very bad burn that was never correctable, although it did not affect the taste. The salt-and-pepper ash is unimpressive and barely held on for more than an inch, even when I was trying. The cigar remained lit and the draw was initially tight in the beginning, but clipping off more of the cap resulted in a looser draw.

Otherwise, no construction issues.

Flavor & Taste

For the first 1/3rd of the cigar, I found it to be ever so slightly bitter with a grass taste, but once we progressed into the 2nd and final third of the cigar it settled to more woody/cedar with some spicy tastes to it. The Cohiba Esplendidos starts off mild to medium and becomes be mostly medium body in the 2nd third and a bit stronger by the final third, but never really reaching full bodied taste. The final third is probably the best part of this cigar as the flavor is at its most intense yet the cigar remains buttery smooth.

Throughout the entire smoke, you can get decent clouds of white smoke on each draw. Many tend to describe cigar smoke as pungent and disgusting, but I’ve found the smoke produced by the Esplendidos to be pleasing, although I wouldn’t recommend prolonged (or any) exposure to second-hand smoke…

Value

Next to the Opus X, these are the most expensive cigars I’ve smoked. For nearly $30 a cigar, this will definitely be a special occasion treat. But in all honesty, I think the Cohiba Esplendidos are overpriced.

Conclusion

While many go ga-ga over the Esplendidos, I have to say, considering the price, I wasn’t impressed. There are a number of other cigars that I am quite happy with that can be “daily-smokes” without breaking the bank such as the Montecristo Edmundos or Bolivar Royal Coronas, but then again those aren’t Cohibas. There’s a certain prestige, justified or not, smoking Cohibas just as there is choosing a Rolex over a Timex, but to each his own.

Would I purchase the Esplendidos if I could? Probably not. The flavors and tastes just wasn’t there enough for me to justify the three times the cost over the Edmundos, which are one of my favorite go to cigars. YMMV.

Be sure to check-out these other excellent Cohiba Esplendidos reviews:

Cohiba Esplendidos Gallery Pics

Arturo Fuente Hemingway Best Seller

While many will agree that the Fuente Fuente Opus X cigars are great-to-excellent smokes, its hefty price tag makes it difficult to enjoy more than for special occasions. Fortunately, Arturo Fuente makes a number of very good, affordable cigars, one being the Hemingway line. Named after renowned author, Ernest Hemingway, who actually preferred Russian cigarettes ((http://www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Profiles/People_Profile/0,2540,15,00.html)). This line features a number of Perfecto vitola cigars such as the one being reviewed today: the Best Seller. With a name like that, this cigar has lots to live up to.

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A. Fuente Hemingway Best Seller

Origin: Dominican Republic
Format: Perfecto
Size: 5
Ring: 43/55
Wrapper: Cameroon
Filler: Dominican Republic
Binder: Dominican Republic
Made: Handmade
Strength: Medium
Smoke Time: ~30-40 minutes
Price: $5.99, box of 25 or $6.35, 5-pack

Construction

While not a fan of Piramide/Torpedo or Perfecto vitolas, I can certainly appreciate the skills necessary to roll such a unique shape. The wrapper is a nice looking rustic Cameroon leaf with minimal veins and a light oily sheen. For the price, its rolled very nice with few, if any blemishes and sporting a double cap that is too often hastily applied.

The burn is very even requiring only a minor burn correction. The ash is flaky with mostly gray and the occasional black spots. The ash holds firm for two inches easily before succumbing to pressure.

20100108-Arturo-Fuente-Hemingway-Best-Seller-Bui4Ever-004The Hemingway Best Seller is well packed and tightly rolled, no soft spots throughout when squeezed, with a slight spongy feel. I have nothing but excellent draw from the Hemingway Best Sellers I’ve smoked.

It looks deceiving large in photos, but when you actually hold a Best Seller in your hands, you’ll be surprised at how small it is. At 4-inches long, it’s shorter than the Robustos I’m accustomed to and smoke time on average is 30-40 minutes, a great after lunch or on-the-run choice.

The cigar band is an attractive fusion of red, gold, and black gorgeously designed with the Fuente seal.

Flavors and Taste

20100108-Arturo-Fuente-Hemingway-Best-Seller-Bui4Ever-017

The reviews I’ve read mentioned how much of a flavor firecracker this little guy is and after smoking a couple already, I can’t say I totally agree. Pre-light draw has a peppery taste with a slight bit of wood. Once lit, the flavors do start off fairly quickly, but I never got any of the flavors that wowed me. Right off the back you are treated to a nice sweet taste because of the Cameroon wrapper which progresses to a woody and peppery taste as the cigar progress. Once you get to the nub, the wood flavors start getting overpowered by the peppery taste.

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All-in-all, the flavors weren’t bad, but not terribly exciting either. I wouldn’t go out of my way to find more, but would pick up a few sticks if the price is right.

Here’s a great explanation by Matt from MattsCigar.com on the Perfecto vitola:

The other reason I like the shape is because it lends itself to a more complex smoke. When the cigar starts off narrow, there is less filler mixed with the wrapper and so the wrapper plays a larger role in the flavors of the smoke to start. As you progress through the smoke and the burn starts to widen into the thicker part of the cigar you are burning more filler and the wrapper’s role is less dominate and the flavors begin to change. It’s not long before the cigar begins to narrow and the flavors begin to change again. It makes for a complex, attention holding, fun smoke. This has been my experience with the Hemingway cigars including this Best Seller.

Value

20100108-Arturo-Fuente-Hemingway-Best-Seller-Bui4Ever-010I purchased the Hemingway Best Seller in a 5-pack sampler for $32.75 from Famous-Smoke.com, as I wanted to give these a try but not commit to a box purchase just in-case I didn’t like them and they’re not too bad. I’m not sure that I would pick up a box, but a couple of 5-packs would be good to have. Many of the reviews I read also mentioned that the Hemingway Best Seller is worth, at best, ~$4.00 per stick, and I would probably have to agree.

Conclusion

This is certainly a decent tasting cigar, when found for under MSRP price. It doesn’t take very long to enjoy and has decent flavors making it ideal for enjoying in the colder winter months or an after lunch treat. At the very least, the Perfecto shape is an interesting conversation starter at any cigar lounge.

Also note, the Hemingway Best Seller is the larger version to the very similar looking Hemingway Short Story, and I’ve heard the flavors are very similar.

Be sure to read these other great reviews on the Fuente Hemingway Best Seller:

Gallery Pictures

Best Cigar Lounge in the San Francisco Bay Area: Cigar Loft and Lounge

With all the anti-smoking legislation and laws in effect, it has become increasingly difficult to find a safe haven where one can legally light-up and enjoy a smoke. And with my wife expecting our first child, I definitely don’t want to expose either to any second-hand smoke, so I’ve been looking for cigar lounges around San Francisco and the Peninsula and I’ve found some places thanks to CigarGroup.com. Unfortunately it seems like the information on CigarGroup.com hasn’t been updated in a while, but it still did offer a great starting point.

From the list, I selected four locations to try and I called each looking for a few things: cigar lounge, cost to use their lounge, do they carry the Zippo Blu butane lighter, and do they carry any NUB cigars. Of the four places I called, only one place fit everything I was looking for: Cigar Loft and Lounge (Yelp review) in San Mateo, CA. With two other stores in the East Bay, I decided to pay the San Mateo store a visit after my dentist appointment and not only was I not disappointed, but I met a few new cigar buddies.

20091219-Cigar-Loft-and-Lounge-San-Mateo-Bui4Ever-001

Cigar Loft and Lounge (650-312-1141) is located at 106 W. 25th Avenue, San Mateo, CA across from Lucetti’s Italian Restaurant (an excellent Italian restaurant from what I’ve been told) along with a number of other stores. Parking is decent, with many 1-to-2-hour metered parking spots on 25th Avenue and be-careful not to make a u-turn on 25th because it’s prohibited and is a costly ticket according to one cigar aficionado who got a $300 fine.

My first impression upon entering Cigar Loft and Lounge was how nice a setup this place is. They have a number of large floor-to-ceiling humidor cabinets filled with a huge selection of premium cigars from many brands such as Opus X, Padron, AVO, Olivia, Fuente, Rocky Patel, Ashton, NUB, and so on. One brand I couldn’t find there that I’ve really been anxious to try was Pete Johnson’s Tatuaje brand (Wiki article), but with their selection so huge, I’m sure there are plenty of other brands that I can try. [2009-12-30 UPDATE: Further proof that I am blind, turns out that Cigar Loft and Lounge does in fact carry Pete Johnson’s Tatuaje brand cigars. Will clarified this in email to me. ] I also found the prices to very reasonable for a brick-and-mortar store. A number of the Opus X cigars was priced at ~$28, which is a great in-store price considering I’ve seen other places sell them for as high as $50 or more because of how limited and hard to find the cigars are. Although I usually buy my cigars online, I’ve been making an effort to support my local b&m store for a number of reasons including supporting the local economy and fellow BOTLs (Brothers of the Leaf).

20091219-Cigar-Loft-and-Lounge-San-Mateo-Bui4Ever-002I found Will Shekaib (store owner) and “Z”, Will’s cousin, very personable, professional, friendly and knowledgeable especially in helping me, a NUB noob, select the right NUB cigar for me, the NUB 460 Cameroon for $6.83 (review here). They were also the only store in the San Francisco/Peninsula area that carried the Zippo Blu butane lighter, which I’ve been looking to buy. There were two to select from: Zippo BLU Shadow Lighter Dark Chrome or Zippo Blu Sable Lighter; I selected the Shadow Lighter Dark ($54.95) as the Sable ($51.95) had a plastic cover cheap feel to it. I also purchased a large can of Vector premium refined gas that is “Quintuplus filtered 5+ times” for ~$7, as the cheap butane refill gas that I’ve using are crap and causing my lighters to perform less than satisfactory. A testament to their service, I had a bit of a struggle in filling my newly purchased Zippo Blu and Z took the initiative to help and spent the time to show me how to properly fill it.

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After completing my purchase, I decided to partake in their cigar lounge. While there is no cost to use the lounge, you do have to purchase at least a cigar, though you don’t have to smoke what you just purchased and are welcome to smoke anything you may have bought with you. I find it rude when some people come to a cigar lounge, don’t buy anything, and expect to use the lounge for free. That would be like going to Starbucks drinking home brought coffee sitting at the tables. The cigar lounge at the Cigar Loft and Lounge is quite generous taking up half, if not more, the size of the store in the back with plenty of large, over-sized, comfortable leather single-seat couches, a large wall-mounted Plasma T.V. complete with a microwave and a fridge. I joined two other BOTL (regulars there) who were already watching the football game and they were very personable, friendly, and inviting. Before long, we were joined by other regulars, all of which were extremely friendly and welcoming. With the relaxed atmosphere, comfortable couches, and friendly cigar aficionados, we discussed everything from favorite cigars to the football game to life in general. Who could ask for more.

This is a very friendly and relaxing atmosphere where you can bring your significant other, provided that he/she enjoys cigar smoking or can tolerate the smoke, and a bunch of friends. While the store has great ventilation, because of the enclosed room, you will end up smelling like cigar smoke after you leave. It’s like eating at Hot Pot City, food is good, but you smell like it afterward. You get people from all walks of life: retired/active police officers, teachers, engineers, CHP, and so forth. There are many great conversations to be had and shared over a fine stogie.

The lounge complete with microwave, mini fridge with beer, and big screen flat panel
The lounge complete with microwave, comfy leather seats, mini-fridge with beer, and big screen flat panel

The Cigar Loft and Lounge has a number of private humidors for rent for $25/month. Renting one gives you certain perks such as invitations to all their events, special discounts (anywhere from 10-25% depending on the cigar) and more. The group I was with there all had a private humidor.

I will definitely be back every couple of week or so. San Mateo is a bit more of a drive for me, but the ambiance, friendliness, fair prices, and great service is worth the drive for me. I didn’t really get a chance to take any snaps, but next time I’m there I’ll be sure to get more pictures. Will was generous enough to let me snap some pictures.

Cigar Loft & Lounge
106 W. 25th Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 312-1141
Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10 AM – 8 PM, Sundays: 10 AM – 6 PM

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Cohiba Gran Reserva, It’s Like Burning Money

A little late with this post, but better late than never. As a huge fan of Cohiba cigars (the real one, not the Red Dot), I was shocked at the announcement of a new, extremely limited cigar: the Cohiba Gran Reserva, which is essentially a Siglo VI made with limited supply 5-year aged tobacco. I was even more so shocked when the price was announced, $125 per stick, making this even more expensive than the Fuente Fuente Opus X LBMF (CigarInspector.com review) cigar’s ~$80 per stick price tag pale in comparison. There will only be 5,000 boxes of 15-cigars made of the Gran Reserva, making it extremely limited production and extremely pricey at $1500 a box. Cigar Aficionado has given it a perfect 100-points in a non-blind taste test.

© Smokingstogie.com
© Smokingstogie.com

The Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva is beautifully constructed and comes in an equally beautiful display case. But the big question that lingers is: how good is a 100-point cigar? Check out reviews by SmokingStogie.com (with lots of great pictures) and World of Cigars.

cohiba-gran-reserve-smokingstogie-01Judging from the people who have had the opportunity to have one, it’s heavenly. Apparently the secret of the Cohiba Gran Reserva is the use of the Ligero leaf, the top part of the best tobacco leaves and since there isn’t much of the Ligero leaf on each tobacco plant, it takes a number of them to make a single cigar.

Be sure to checkout the YouTube video by Friends of Habanos:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOFzLllIxtg[/youtube]

Fuente Fuente Opus X Reserve de Chateau Cigar Review

I was first exposed to the Opus X, Arturo Fuente’s premiere line of cigars, back when I first started smoking cigars some three odd years ago. At the time it was considered one of the best smokes, consistently rated at 90+ points with Cigar Aficionado and the price most certainly reflected that. At the time it was too rich for my blood, and having no baseline as to what constituted a bad, good, or great cigar, I opted to pass.

Years later as I started getting back into this past-time and having had a number of cigar brands, I was beginning to understand and develop what I liked in terms of taste so I figured it was time to take a whack at the Opus X. I stopped into a semi-local B&M store at Valley Faire Mall in San Jose that I knew would have some in stock and ended up picking up the Opus X Reserve de Chateau, a churchill length cigar and it stayed in my humidor for a measly thirteen days before I decided it was time to try this baby out.

Continue reading Fuente Fuente Opus X Reserve de Chateau Cigar Review

H.Upmann Magnum 46 Cigar Review

A little known fact about me is that I enjoy cigars, to the chagrin of my wife. I used to smoke cigars more regularly three years ago and only recently having begun again. My favorites for the longest time had been General Cigar’s Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. I, a light body flavor cigar, but now my taste has evolved more towards the wonderful Habana brands such as Cohiba, H.Upmann, and Ramon Allones.

What is the appeal of the Cuban cigar? Most non-cigar smokers would say it’s because they’re forbidden fruit as you can’t legally buy any Cuban cigars because of the 1962 U.S. Trade Embargo against Cuba, but that aside, many cigar hobbyist (such as myself) and aficionados would agree it’s more than that. From the way the Cuban cigars are hand-rolled to the specific tobacco leaves used, they are a treat unlike any other cigars, except a few non-Cuban brands such as Fuente (most notably, the Opus X) and Padron.
Continue reading H.Upmann Magnum 46 Cigar Review