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

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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

Montecristo Petit Edmundo vs Montecristo Edmundo

Every Montecristo Edmundo cigar I’ve smoked have been exquisite, but I don’t always have the 90-minutes to enjoy them fully. I was super excited to see that Montecristo offers an 1-inch shorter version, aptly named the Petit Edmundo, that retains all the great flavors in a shorter vitola.

I was planning to review the Petit Edmundo without many comparisons to its larger brother, the Edmundo, but there are more similarities than differences of the two vitolas. So this review will be different that other cigar reviews in that it is more of a comparison between the two Edmundos.

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Montecristo Petit Edmundo

Origin: Cuba
Format: Petit Robusto
Size: 4.3
Ring: 52
Wrapper: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Made: Handmade
Strength: Medium/Full
Smoke Time: ~45 minutes
Price: $7.56, box of 25

Construction

The Petit Edmundos has a nice oily-sheen milk chocolate-brown wrapper with many fine veins very similar to the Edmundos. I noticed with the Petit Edmundo, the triple cap seems to be hastily applied on more than a few sticks, surprising since the Montecristo Edmundo has some of the best looking triple caps I’ve seen of the Cuban cigars I’ve tried.

20091229-Montecristo-Petit-Edmundo-Bui4Ever-011The Petit Edmundos I’ve tried so far, all of them have exhibited consistent smooth draws; not too tight and not too loose giving you nice bellows of smoke. The Petit Edmundo is solidly built with no hint of soft spots when squeezed. The burn is decent, solid and slow with salt-and-pepper colored ash that holds on for an inch or more easily. The occasional minor burn corrections are needed to keep the Petit Edmundo burning evenly.

I was surprised to find that the Petit Edmundo has a larger ring guage (52mm) than the Edmundo (50mm) despite advertising suggesting otherwise. I can’t imagine this is a typo as many other online cigar review sites have listed the Edmundo and Petit Edmundo as having 52mm ring gauges. The Edmundos I own are not counterfeits, so it’s a bit perplexing. So as an FYI, the Montecristo Petit Edmundo has a 52mm ring gauge and the Montecristo Edmundo has a 50mm ring gauge. [2010-01-22 UPDATE: So this is quite interesting, I just received a box of 25 of the Montecristo Edmundo and it has a ring size of 52mm. It seems like the Montecristo Edmundo tubos have a slightly smaller ring gauge for whatever reason.]

When purchased in a box, the Montecristo cedar dress box is absolutely beautifully constructed with perfect hinges and a similar decorative lock type latch found on the Cohiba dress boxes, minus the shiny veneer finish on the Cohiba.

The Montecristo cigar band has also changed. The 2007 band on my Edmundos are plain, faded milk chocolate-brown and cheap looking where the 2009 cigar band is darker brown with raised lettering and accents. The new bands look better and less counterfeit looking. According to this website, the Montecristo band was changed sometime in 2007.

Flavors & Taste

20091230-Montecristo-Petit-Edmundo-Bui4Ever-013According to the box code, the Petit Edmundos I have are dated as May 2009, unusually young Cubans, and despite better judgment, I couldn’t resist trying one as soon I received my box. While I can taste the same flavors as the Edmundo, there is a bit of bitterness which I attribute to the youngness factor. The Edmundos I have are more than twice the age and the flavors and taste on those are finally settling in real nice. That’s unfortunate as I don’t think I can let the Petit Edmundo sit undisturbed for a year or more without enjoying some. They don’t taste bad, but when you know how good they can be with age, it’s hard to fully enjoy. I’ll try and let them sit in my humidor for a month and see if the taste settles any better.

Otherwise, pre-light taste has hints of almond, chocolate, and pepper. The flavors of the Petit Edmundo is identical to the Edmundo. Flavors remain consistent throughout to the nub. The Petit Edmundo is classified as medium-full bodied as with the Edmundo. There are also a number of people who seem to prefer the Petit over the full-size Edmundo.

Value

A box of 25 sets you back $189 USD where the Edmundo is slightly more at $220 USD. Despite being slightly shorter than a typical Robusto, the larger ring gauge should make it burn about the same speed.

Conclusion

I’m a big Robusto fan and the size of the Petit Edmundo is about right for my on-the-go life where the Edmundo is better suited for when time is not a concern. In short, the Montecristo Petit Edmundo has the famous Montecristo taste and you can’t go wrong with having a box or even a few sticks of these in your humidors. Despite designed to be a quicker smoke, I would definitely suggest that you take the time to savior each and every draw and the wonderful taste of this cigar.

Check out these other great reviews on the Petit Edmundo:

Montecristo Petit Edmundo Gallery Pictures

How I Won A Zippo Blu Butane Lighter

One of the cigar blogs I frequent, CigarInspector.com, was running a New Year’s contest and all you had to do was be subscribed to their RSS feed. Then near New Years, they would publish a review with a secret link visible only to those who subscribe via RSS to a page to where you enter your email into a random drawing. Having never won anything online (probably because I never really enter any online contest/giveaways), It was shocking to receive an email from the Inspector indicating I’ve won!

The prize was a choice of either Capri 50 Cigar Humidor, Zippo Blu cigar lighter, or Lotus Spectre Switchblade Cigar Cutter; all really great prizes. Since I already have 3 humidors and a couple of cutters, I opted for the Zippo Blu cigar lighter since I really like them and you can read my review here.

© CigarInspector.com
© CigarInspector.com

If you enjoy cigars, I urge you to bookmark and subscribe to CigarInspector.com, you won’t be disappointed. They have top-notch reviews of all kinds of cigars (Cubans and non-Cubans) and the occasional cigar related accessories.

Merci beaucoup Denis!

CAO MX2 Robusto Cigar Review

When I had first tried the CAO MX2 Toro, I was impressed at how much I liked it despite being a very strong medium-to-full-bodied smoke. The MX2 line looks very intimidating because of its black Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper, but looks are certainly deceiving. If you’ve been a big fan of medium bodied, medium-full bodied cigar, add the CAO MX2 to your must try list; you never know, you might end up liking it.

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CAO MX2 Robusto

Origin: Nicaragua
Format: Robusto
Size: 5
Ring: 52
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Peru
Binder: Brazilian Maduro
Made: Handmade
Smoke Time: ~60 minutes
Price: Famous-Smoke.com: $6.50 for single or $5.15 each in box of 20, CigarsDirect.com: $32 for a 5-pack or $4.95 each in a box of 20 ($99)

Construction

20091229-CAO-MX2-Robusto-Bui4Ever-002While the CAO MX2 Robusto isn’t the best looking cigar, it is very well-built without any soft spots when squeezed throughout. Present are some minimal veins that runs throughout the oily sheen maduro wrapper. While most maduro cigars have a maduro wrapper, the MX2 has both a maduro wrapper and binder, thus the MX2 designation, Maduro x 2.

The CAO MX2 Robusto is slightly larger than the standard size Robusto being 5 inches long with a 52mm ring instead of 4.8 inches long with a 50mm ring. The slightly longer length and thicker ring gauge makes for a longer smoke. Because of the great build quality, it required no burn corrections as the cigar burned evenly throughout, leaving a dark solid gray ash. The draw was very smooth with just about the right amount of resistance enabling you to draw in good amounts of smoke.

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As one of the online blogs had mentioned, the CAO MX2 band is reminiscent of a tuxedo with a faux-dual band and silver lettering of the brand’s logo, CAO, on one band and the MX2 designation on the second. I had no trouble removing the dual band.

Flavor

20091229-CAO-MX2-Robusto-Bui4Ever-006So what does this cigar taste like? Dark chocolate, coffee, and pepper are dominate tastes I get throughout, all of which are quite pleasing to the palate. The Mx2 leaves a nice spicy tingling feel on my tongue each time I take a draw. The unique flavor has to do with the four different fillers blended with the maduro wrapper and binder.

The cigar starts out mellow and creamy and then gets stronger and stronger and less creamy until you’re close to the nub where the taste starts becoming harsh. I was able to almost nub it, but decided to put it down before I got sick from the very strong taste. A number of other reviews I read have the same conclusion that near the last third, the cigar loses its creaminess and becomes harsher to the taste.

Value

At $4.95 for the Robusto, this is quite a good value for about an hour-long smoke. You can buy a box of 20 for $99 from CigarsDirect.com. If you’re not sure if you will like this cigar or not, I would recommend picking up a 5-pack from CigarsDirect.com for only $32 to try before buying an entire box. You could also pick up a couple or few sticks from your local tobacconist.

Conclusion

I purchased this stick from my local store, Cigar Loft and Lounge and it sit for a few days in my humidor before I couldn’t resist smoking it any longer. The last CAO MX2 had been aged 2 years before I had it and I can say aging does nothing for them. Typically aging a medium-full to full-bodied cigar will take some of the bite out of the taste, but the 2-year-old MX2 Toro I had still had plenty of bite. The Robusto tasted identical to the Toro, same chocolate and spicy pepper taste.

I can’t say this cigar is for everyone, but I think it’s a definite must try. If you’re used to the lighter smokes, this guy will have some kick. Definitely an after dinner cigar. This has certainly become my favorite non-Cuban cigar and I would definitely pick up a box.

Be sure to read these other reviews on this cigar:

CAO MX2 Robusto Gallery Pictures

Debunking the Undeserved Criticism: The Zippo Blu Butane Lighter Review

Zippo is an iconic company for the last 77 years producing nothing but lighters and is proud to still be manufactured in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Owning a Zippo is more than just owning a lighter, but rather an heirloom or a piece of jewelry to be passed down from generation to generation like a Rolex is more than a just a time-telling instrument. It’s more than a lighter for smokers, but a tool with a rich heritage of being at one time used by the U.S. military, the Boy Scouts, campers/backpackers, and so forth for many reasons including the ability to stay lit in harsh weathers. The distinctive Zippo click when opened or closed, the flint wheel, and all the cool Zippo tricks adds to the appeal of the Zippo.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpogpiOCTqU[/youtube] [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9rRkgnMVNg[/youtube] [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOHwjDzUDnE[/youtube]

Unfortunately for cigar aficionados, using a Zippo to light a cigar is not ideal as it introduces a gas taste to the cigar. Fortunately, Zippo offers us a wonderful alternative: the Zippo Blu butane lighter, a gorgeous butane lighter but does it live up to the Zippo name? Having read many online reviews about the lack of reliability, the answer seems to be no, and it certainly discouraged me from picking one up. I ended up doing the Zippo/Z-Plus Blazer conversion, but had a number of frustrating issues such as inconsistent lighting, so I ended up rarely using it. Fortunately I didn’t give up on owning a Blu and with enough digging online I found these positive reviews which changed my mind enough that I bit the bullet and did it. And I’m glad I did!

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Construction

The pictures do not do the Zippo Blu any justice whatsoever. The moment I held one in person, I was sold. It feels incredibly solid and looks amazing. Originally I wasn’t feeling the modern design of the Blu compared to the simple iconic Zippos, but it’s really starting to grow on me now. With the lid closed, it’s smooth, sleek, and modern looking but still retains the Zippo look and feel.

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20091219-Zippo-Blu-butane-lighter-Bui4Ever-009If there are any complaints to have about the Zippo, then there are four (semi-minor) things. First, the lid doesn’t always close fully. About 8 out of 10 times it works fine, but sometimes you sometimes have to nudge the lid to the side slightly to get it to fully close securely. Second, there is no way to adjust to the flame height. One trick I’ve found is to press down on the flint wheel and let some gas out before spinning the flint wheel to ignite the butane which works. Third, the gas tank indicator is a nice touch, but you can only see it clearly in bright light. Finally, the refill slot isn’t your average size meaning those cheap butane refill kits you buy from the gas station won’t fit correctly, which is good because you shouldn’t use cheap butane for such a great lighter as the Zippo Blu. If you use quality butane gas such as Vector, it comes with a handy adapter that lets you easily refill the butane gas tank.

Another thing I like about the Zippo Blu over other lighters such as my Blazer Venture dual-torch is the large capacity fuel tank. I’ve lit up some 4 Robusto size cigars, did numerous burn corrections on those cigars, I’ve played around with it by igniting it for fun and the tank is still showing 3/4 full! Typically with my Blazer Venture, I’m out of gas by the 4th cigar.

There are a number of attractive finishes of the Zippo Blu that you can buy. My local store only had two and I chose the better finish in my opinion.

Usage (Read The Damn Directions)

I’m like most people, just give me the damn thing and I’ll figure it out. If you decide to take that approach and it doesn’t work, don’t blame it on the product until you’re sure you’re doing it right. I’m sure when the Zippo Blu was first released, there might have been problems as you would expect with anything new. But what I know is, when I purchased my Zippo BLU Shadow Lighter Dark Chrome from Cigar Loft and Lounge, it has worked perfectly. Sure, it doesn’t always light 100% of the time, but I’ve never had a lighter that did. What I’ve found with the Zippo Blu is that it’s a different kind of butane lighter. The flint system on the Blu is a bit tricky, but once you get it down, you’ll find it works great. I, too, was hesitant about how well the butane flint system would work, but when people see me using it and try it out, they love it.

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I have not found the Zippo Blu is any less reliable than my Blazer dual-torch butane lighter, which was my most reliable lighter to date. There are a number of reasons why the Blu might not light and like computer troubleshooting, it’s best to do a process of elimination. First, make sure you’re using either Zippo Premium Butane Fuel, Vector Quintuple Refined Butane Gas Fuel Refill, or some other high-quality butane gas. The cheap stuff can cause clogs or weak flames. Second, did you refill the gas correctly? Remember that to refill a butane lighter, the lighter has to be completely upside down and not at an angle or you might get air which will cause the lighter not to light. Third, did you know that cold butane doesn’t light very well? If you just refilled your lighter, let it warm up to room temperature before attempting to light. If the lighter is already filled or has adequate supply, make sure it’s not cold by wrapping it in your hands for a minute or so to warm it up. Finally, with the Blu’s unique flint system, you have to press down and let some gas expel before spinning the flint to light it up. If you spin the flint as you’re pressing down, you’ll get horribly inconsistent lights and weak flames. The longer  that you let the gas expel, the higher and more intense the burn will be, to a point. If all that still doesn’t work for you, let someone else try it and if they have the same problems as you, then it might be time to send the lighter in for repair. Fortunately all Zippos carry a lifetime warranty.

Value

I purchased my Zippo Blu in-store at Cigar Loft and Lounge for a little over $54 plus tax. I could have purchased the same exact lighter on Amazon for $34.95, but I wanted to see it and feel it in person. At $34.95, it is a steal compared to other crappier lighters such as Colibri that you can easily pay hundreds for. I would purchase another at $54 without hesitation.

Conclusion

The Zippo Blu is one of the best looking lighters I’ve seen, period. It’s neat, it’s sleek, has a large tank, fits beautifully flat in your pockets, and the build quality of Zippo. People who see me using the Blu are always asking about it and once they try it, they are quite impressed. Sure it takes some getting used to, but if you give it a chance, I think you’ll find this is the lighter you’re most likely to carry with you daily. The cost is quite reasonable compared to other high-end lighters, but I like the shape and feel of the Blu best.

Also another thing to remember about the Zippo Blu is that you will have to occasionally replace the flint because of wear. The flint replacements aren’t terribly expensive and are fairly easy to do yourself. The Zippo website has excellent directions on how to replace the flint yourself and not void your lifetime warranty. You can also read more Zippo Blu FAQ on their website here.

I’ll leave you with one last video, a pretty good Zippo Blu review by CutleryLover. The only issue I have with the video is that he is lighting it wrong. Make sure you hold down the flint wheel for about a second before spinning it!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rw5mwpwll08[/youtube]

Recommended Vendors

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Zippo Blu Gallery Pictures

NUB 460 Cameroon Cigar Review

Since I’ve heard about NUB Cigars by Sam Leccia, I’ve been wanting to try it out. For those who have never heard of NUB, the concept is simple: create a cigar which packs a lot of flavor in a short size. Why the short size? Because the best flavors of the cigars generally come out near the final 1/3rd of a cigar and because Leccia’s “natural impatience he wanted a high quality cigar that developed it’s optimum flavor extremely quickly” and so NUB was born.

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Fortunately my local brick-and-mortar, Cigar Loft and Lounge, happens to be one of the few places in San Francisco/Peninsula Bay Area to stock all the various NUB blends and vitolas, I was in luck. I picked up a NUB 460 Cameroon, a medium-bodied smoke, to try out and here are my thoughts.

NUB 460 Cameroon Cigar Details

Origin: Nicaragua
Format: 460
Length: 4.0
Ring: 60
Wrapper: Cameroon
Filler: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Made: Handmade
Smoke Time: ~36 minutes
Price: $4.65 single/$110.99 box

Construction

20091221-NUB-460-Cameroon-Bui4Ever-003

The first thing I noticed about the NUB 460 Cameroon is that it’s beautifully constructed. There aren’t really any flaws and it’s solid with no soft spots when squeezed. It feels quite large due to the 60 ring size and stubby being only 4.0 inches long. It has a slight oily sheen to it with some small veins throughout with a nice double-cap at the end. The Cameroon wrapper is a nice rustic green/brown color that is pretty consistent all over. The cigar comes wrapped in cellophane.

The cigar band is plain, simple, and elegant adorned with gold, white, and blue. In the middle is the NUB logo with Cameroon written below it. Of all the cigar bands I’ve seen and tried (Cuban and non-Cuban), this is by far the easiest to remove without damaging the wrapper.

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The NUB Cameroon I tried for this review had a slight loose pre-light draw and continued up until the beginning of the second-third of the cigar. It wasn’t bad, but a bit annoying. Once the draw issues are out of the way, it starts really getting very good. The Cameroon is nicely packed with tobacco and rolled very well. The ash stayed on solid all the way up until the final 1/3rd when it broke off and fell to the ground and broke into flaky pieces. I only had to do one minor burn correction, otherwise the NUB burned quite well.

Flavor and Taste

The flavors come right out at the very beginning and hits you like a medium-bodied cigar with the flavors of spiciness, leather, a touch of sweetness, and coffee. It’s very buttery/creamy smooth all the way down to the nub. About 2/3rds of the way in I was shocked to suddenly taste pepper and nuts with a very nice aftertaste. The pepper taste started letting up near the final 1/3rd.

Overall I found the NUB 460 Cameroon to be very good, but the taste a bit lacking. It might be that Im starting to develop a taste for stronger bodied cigars or this could have been a fluke and I’ll need to try another one, but I think I may step it up and try the NUB Maduro next time out.

Value

I purchased the NUB 460 Cameroon from my local cigar store, Cigar Loft and Lounge, for $6.83 plus tax making this a decent value. If you purchase from online from stores such as Famous-Smoke, the price is certainly cheaper. I do urge that you try and buy from a local store when possible for a number of reasons: support the local economy, if there is something wrong with the cigar you can easily switch it, no worries about damage to the cigar because of shipping, and we need more local cigar lounges. I can’t tell you how annoying it is when you buy a sampler or a single and it has loose draw or a cracked wrapper. That extra couple of dollars goes a long way.

I try to base what I perceive as value on smoke time and the flavors of a cigar. This is definitely a “shorter” smoke, as it took me ~36 minutes to enjoy it, but I’ve heard you can smoke the NUB in ~15 minutes with constant and consistently puffs.

Conclusion

Sam Leccia doesn’t disappoint with his creation: NUB. I definitely can see picking up a box or having at least a handful in the humidor as this would be a great smoke for the winter months or even an after lunch smoke year round. The flavors are good, the construction is very good, and the price is not bad.

I’ll definitely be trying more of the NUB cigars. If you live in the San Francisco/Peninsula Bay Area and looking for an authorized NUB dealer, be sure to checkout Cigar Loft and Lounge for their great prices, great service, and a gorgeous cigar lounge.

Be sure to checkout these other great reviews:

NUB 460 Cameroon 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.

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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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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.

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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

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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

Ramon Allones Specially Selected (RASS) Cigar Review

One of my favorite cigar formats is the Robusto because it generally packs a lot of flavor and takes about ~45 minutes to enjoy making it great for after lunch, after dinner, and/or enjoying with friends. The Ramon Allones Specially Selected consistently tops the list as one of the top in its class. This Cuban puro rated an 82 by Cigar Aficionado in its August 2009 magazine and is consistently highly rated by many other online cigar aficionados here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Being so highly rated by so many, I knew I couldn’t go wrong with the RASS; my thoughts inside.

Continue reading Ramon Allones Specially Selected (RASS) 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