Overpriced brand-name cigar: Thou Name Is Cohiba Robusto

Cohiba is one of the cigar brands that need no introductions. The flagship brand of Habanos S.A. and the personal brand to Dictator Fidel Castro, Cohiba is the cream of the crop for Cuban cigars and you certainly pay top dollar for that.

As the Robusto is my favorite cigar vitola, it should come as no surprise that the Cohiba Robusto would be a cigar I would be interested in. I have looked forward to having one for a very long time and opportunity came knocking. Here are my thoughts.

Construction

I’ve read from a number of sites that construction issues plague Cohiba; complaints range from loosely rolled cigars to cracked wrappers. Fortunately the three Cohiba Robustos I sampled exhibited no problems, physically anyways.

The Cohiba Robusto has very small, minor veins on it’s otherwise ordinary looking milky chocolate wrapper. When squeezed, there is some slight sponginess, but no soft spots so no odd burning issues are anticipated. The burn is decent, I did touch it up a few times with my Zippo Blu. The ash is an unimpressive flaky salt-and-pepper color that refused to hold for more than an inch at a time.

Flavor & Taste

Pre-light draw revealed very subtle hints of…hay/grass…? The foot of the Cohiba Robusto smelled like nothing but perhaps the subtle scent of floral.

The first third of the cigar is the worse in flavor. A combination of what I can only describe as chewing on wet, bitter grass. Of the two Cohiba Robusto I smoked, as well as my buddy who had one, that inital crap taste was consistent on all three. Yum.

By the second third, things definitely started getting better. The bitterness resided and flavors of coffee as well as dark chocolate began to overtake.

The last third is where this baby starts to shine and becomes what one would expect of a Cuban cigar. A touch of pleasant spiciness develops and becomes an enjoyable smoke.

Despite all the talk about the strength, power, and kick of Cohiba cigars, I hate to say it but, it is overstated. The Cohiba Robusto, in my opinion, is more of a decent medium body cigar compared to, say, the Bolivar Royal Corona. But let me add, what I consider a strong cigar isn’t one that necessarily is overpowering, kicks the crap out of you and churns your stomach like drinking heavy liquor on an empty stomach, but rather the quality and complexity of taste.

Value

At $15 a cigar, the Cohiba Robusto, to me anyways, is hardly a value buy. A box purchase of 25 will certainly set you back a pretty penny. Had this cigar been more enjoyable from the get-go, it would be worth having a few sticks lying around in the humidor for those special occasions.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, I’m sure some readers may find my observations and experience with the Cohiba Robusto a bit harsh, but when a cigar passes the $10 mark, I’d expect to pay for more than just the brand name. Given the many Robusto choices, I have to say I’m more likely to reach for a Bolivar Royal Corona or a Montecristo Petit Edmundo for more half the price of a Cohiba Robusto. Obviously everyone’s taste varies, but for my taste, despite how much I’ve been looking forward to having a Cohiba Robusto and finally having one, the experience came up short.

I’m sure down the road, I may consider trying a couple or few more to be sure, but that won’t be anytime soon.

Best Cuban Cigar: Montecristo No. 2?

I finally tried, what many would consider, one of the best non-special edition Torpedo-shaped Cuban cigars on the market: the Montecristo No. 2. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of Torpedo-shaped cigars despite all the good reasons: easier to draw and more consistent draw, concentrated flavors, easier to grip in the mouth, and so forth, but everything is worth trying at least once, right?

Montecristo No. 2

Origin: Cuban
Format: Piramide (Torpedo/Pyramid)
Size: 6.1
Ring: 52
Box Date Code: June 2009
Wrapper: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Made: Handmade
Strength: Medium
Smoke Time: ~80 minutes
Price: ~$9 in a box of 25

Construction

As I’ve come to expect from Cuba’s largest exported cigar brand ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montecristo_%28cigar_brand%29)), the No. 2 is beautifully constructed although not the most attractive looking stick. The No. 2 feels heavy and solid in my hands, firm with no soft spots when squeezed and very well rolled as evidenced when inspecting the foot. The closes I have in size to the No. 2 are my Montecristo Edmundo which are about an inch shorter than the No. 2.

One interesting feature of this Pirámide vitola is that the foot is the thickest (ring gauge of 52) and tapers down slowly until it reaches the pointed head of the cigar which lends itself to the taste because the pyramid shape helps concentrate the flavors on a smaller part of your tongue.

A smooth and excellent draw, the No. 2 has very little veins throughout the cigar.

Of the few I’ve smoked so far, the burn is excellent requiring just the slight burn correction on one of the stick. The ash is mostly white with a few flakes and holds for about an inch before breaking off.

Flavor and Taste

I was initially hesitant on whether the No. 2 could live up to the hype; after all, many well-known celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Jack Nicholson, Michael Jordan, Michael Douglass, John Travolta, Demi Moore, Tom Selleck, Kinky Friedman, and James Woods count the No. 2 among their favorite smokes ((http://www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Profiles/People_Profile/0,2540,178,00.html)) and what celebrities like don’t always live up the hype. I’m so glad I broke down and tried them because the No. 2 is not only every bit as good as everyone says they are, they are mouth-watering good!

The Montecristo No. 2 starts out mild in the first third with hints of cedar and coffee and starts picking up strength in the second third with more pronounced flavors of coffee with some leather and chocolate with a touch of spiciness. By the last third, the cedar, leather, chocolate, coffee, and spicy flavors are at its peak until finish. I would definitely classify the No. 2 as a strong medium bodied cigar that is very smooth from beginning to end with complex flavors that leaves a very pleasant aftertaste that lingers for hours, as a great cigar should. The larger size will mean you need some time to fully enjoy the amazing flavors and is a great choice to enjoy when entertaining with friends. This is a cigar you do not want to rush or risk ruining the taste of this fine cigar.

Also, this is a personal preference, but I recommend not snipping off too much of the pointed cap. Snipping off too much may cause the cigar to unravel and you don’t get the same level of flavor concentration that comes from a Piramide shaped cigar.

According to the box code on my Montecristo No. 2 dress box, these sticks are from June 2009, not even a year old at the time of this writing and they already taste amazing. Given a few more years, these sticks will be divine, but I don’t see how I’ll be able to let them sit undisturbed for that long!

Value

For a cigar that taste this good at ~$10, this is a no-brainer box purchase. My buddy CigarInspector.com says it best: “Not overpriced, yet expensive – and worth every penny” ((http://www.cigarinspector.com/montecristo/montecristo-no-2)).

Conclusion

I have a buddy who really, really likes the Cohiba Esplendidos, willing to shell out $25 per stick, but after having the Montecristo No. 2, he’s hard-pressed on justifying the extra $15 for the Cohiba. Granted they are completely different cigars, but the Esplendidos and the No. 2 represent the best offerings of their respective brands so there is some room for comparison.

Prior to having the Montecristo No. 2, I thought the Edmundo was Montecristo’s best cigar as I couldn’t imagine how it could get any better, but the No. 2 changes all that,  fastly becoming my all-time favorite cigar, Cuban or not.

I can safely say that my humidor will never run out of the Montecristo No. 2.

Be sure to read these other great reviews on the Montecristo No. 2:

Montecristo No. 2 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

Montecristo Edmuno Cigar Review

Next to Cohiba, Montecristo is perhaps one of the most recognizable Cuban cigar brand in the world. Their flagship cigar, the Montecristo No. 2, considered one of the finest full-bodies torpedo cigars made by many cigar aficionados, rated as a 94 by Cigar Aficionado (Feb 2008 edition).

I, not being a fan of torpedo shaped cigars or full-bodied Cubans (yet), opted for the Montecristo Edmundo. Montecristo also makes a shorter version, the Petit Edmundo, which is also very highly rated for those who are shorter on time or prefer a smaller vitola. I have not  tried the Petit Edmunodo yet, but from what I hear, it hits the sweet spot sooner. Definitely on my to try next list.

20091210-Montecristo-Edmundo-Cuban-Cigar-008

Montecristo Edmundo

Origin: Cuba
Format: Robusto
Size: 5.3
Ring: 50
Wrapper: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Made: Handmade
Smoke Time: ~90 minutes
Price: $8.80, box of 25

Construction

20091210-Montecristo-Edmundo-Cuban-Cigar-002Beautifully constructed, this Robusto vitola named after Edmundo Dantes, the hero in Alexandro Dumas’ famous novel, “The Count of Montecristo”, a favorite reading for the torcedores of the Montecristo brand.

This is a large puro measuring 5.3 inches with a 50 ring. There is hardly any veins in the wrapper with no soft spots when gently squeezed. There is plenty of tobacco packed into this beast. The wrapper has a nice naturally, oily sheen and smells great. (2010-01-25 UPDATE: I found something quite interesting. Apparently the Montecristo Edmundos that come in the tubos are 50mm ring gauges where the Edmundos from a box of 25 are 52mm. Not entirely sure why the tubed version would be noticeably smaller.)

The cigar band is a very simple design, perhaps the smallest and least decorative of its other Cuban brothers. The band design is so boring and uninspiring (Montecristo name on top and Habana at the bottom with a Fleur in the middle) you could think the cigar was a counterfeit if not for the beautiful construction, the perfect triple cap, and the robust flavors.

I received the Montecristo Edmundo 3-pack that comes in a very nice package, complete the Country’s seals of authenticity. The Edmundo in the 3-packs come in a very attractive yellow metal tubo with the ornate Montecristo logo, the cigar name, and a bar-code on each. Inside, lays an Edmundo wrapped in a thin piece of cedar to help lock in the flavor. What’s great about the metal tubos is that they prevent the cigar from getting damaged when traveling with a stick. Normally I carry cigars i plan on consuming in a Cigar Caddy, but with the tubos I can travel light and not worry my cigar being destroyed in my pocket or bag. Even with the tubos, you’ll still need to place them in a humidor to keep them until you’re ready to enjoy them.

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My friends and I have not had any burn issues with the Montecristo Edmundo. Once started, it keeps a very precise burn until the end, no corrections needed. The salt-and-pepper ash produced is solid an holds for an inch-and-half easily. Because of the size and how well it’s packed, it’s easy to get large billows of nice white smoke.

Flavor and Taste

20091210-Montecristo-Edmundo-Cuban-Cigar-006The Montecristo Edmundo has a wonderful medium-to-full-bodied taste that remains unchanged except near the end. The flavors are buttery, with pepper, vanilla, chocolate with a hint of coffee beans throughout, but pickup more in pepper once you hit the last 1/3rd.

This is a cigar that you need adequate time to enjoy. Try rushing it and the strong flavors will kick your ass like gulping down hard Scotch, shot after shot. To truly appreciate this masterpiece, you need to take sips and let the taste flow around in your mouth before letting it out. I’ve tried to smoke these down to the nub a few times, but the flavors get too strong for me near the end, so generally I know when it’s time to put it down, it’s time to put it down. Also because this is more of a medium-to-full body cigar, make sure you have a hearty meal before enjoying one, or you will get sick.

The 5-pack of 3-packs (15 cigars) I have has a date code 2007 of making them 2 years-old (3 years, if you consider that the leaves are aged a year before being used) and from what I’ve read, can only get better with age.

Value

Purchased in a box of 25, the Montecristo Edmundo works out to $8.80 per stick. Purchased individually, the cost becomes a bit more on the pricey side of ~$13. Even at $13 a cigar, I definitely think it’s worth the value unlike the $36 Opus X Churchill I had.

For those who can legally acquire these beauties, they come as a single tubo, a 3-pack of tubos, a 5-pack of 3-packs (15 Edmundos), and a clamshell box of 25.

Conclusion

20091210-Montecristo-Edmundo-Cuban-Cigar-009

This has become one of my favorite cigars, so far. If you want to experience Cuban cigars at its finest, I would certainly recommend the Edmundo for its beautiful construction and yummy flavors. For $8.80 a cigar, you’ll be hard pressed to find even a Cohiba that taste as good for the same price.

Be sure to read other reviews:

Montecristo Edmuno Gallery

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