Oliva Connecticut Reserve Toro Review

When I usually reach for a cigar from my humidor, it is almost always a Cuban. It’s not that I’m snob or anything, but I find, more often than not, I like the Cuban taste over Dominicans, Nicaraguans, and so on. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t found some wonderful non-Cuban cigars that I equally like, one being the Oliva Connecticut Reserve that I’ll be reviewing today.

Oliva is generally better known for their full-bodied cigars such as the Serie G, Serie O, and Serie V. The Connecticut Reserve is a special line of Oliva that is meant to appeal to mild-bodied cigar smokers who aren’t looking for an over-powering cigar. The Connecticut Reserve comes in five sizes: Churchill, Lonsdale, Robusto, Torpedo, and Toro. This review will cover the Toro vitola.

Also an interesting tidbit is that you will not find anything about the Connecticut Reserve on Oliva’s website except on their ratings page, not sure why that is.

Oliva Connecticut Reserve Toro

Origin: Esteli, Nicaragua
Format: Toro
Size: 6
Ring: 50
Box Date Code: n/a
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
Filler: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Made: Handmade
Strength: Light/Medium
Smoke Time: ~45 minutes
Price: ~$5/each

Construction

For the price, these cigars are absolutely gorgeous! Solidly constructed and firm when squeezed, the Oliva’s Connecticut wrapper has a nice caramel color with no visible discoloration or blemishes.

Inspecting the foot, it looks well rolled with a good amount of tobacco. The Oliva Connecticut Reserve has, what looks like, a double-cap on the head. There are very small veins  throughout the wrapper and for the value, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better looking cigar. I think this is probably one of the best looking cigars I’ve had.

This cigar in the Toro format certainly feels long in my hands, given my general preference for Robusto sized cigars. The burn is decent, requiring the occasional minor touch-ups to keep the burn even, and stayed lit when I had to put it down for restroom breaks. The salt-and-pepper ash stays planted to the cigar anywhere from 1-to-2 inches before breaking off.

One thing I’ve found is that the wrapper leaf is extremely thin and can easily tear or rip if you’re not gentle with it, so take care when removing the cigar band.

Flavor & Taste

The best part of this cigar are the flavors and taste. Prelight taste is muted with just a bit of sweetness one would expect from the Connecticut wrapper and once lit, the predominant flavors of toasted almonds and creamy butter explode on your palate for a wonderful experience. The first time I had the Connecticut Reserve, I was blown away at how flavorful it is. Originally penned as a light-bodied cigar, I’ve found the Oliva Connecticut Reserve is more of a light-to-medium-bodied cigar, that is hardly overpowering. My buddy, who I gave two to try, has said: “This is the cigar I would give to someone who is new to smoking cigars.”

The flavors don’t really change much as the cigar progresses, but the taste does get smoother with a hint of bitterness starts developing at about the 2/3rd mark which I think helps balance the sweetness of the Connecticut wrapper.

Value

The Oliva Connecticut Reserve is definitely worth a box purchase. You can find these guys for like $5 or less online. I got lucky and scored a 10-pack from JoeCigar.com for $2.99 a cigar! Well worth it.

Conclusion

I can’t really find anything bad to say about this cigar. For the price, the taste, and the looks, this cigar is a winner in my book.  This is a great morning or lunch cigar, something light that won’t make you sick and works just as well as an after dinner cigar. A number of times if I’m enjoying a cigar with my buddy and I finish before him, I’ll light up a Oliva Connecticut Reserve and it works out perfectly.

If you haven’t tried an Oliva, definitely try one! If you’re looking for a cigar that has a lots of flavor but not over-powering, try the Connecticut Reserve and even if you’re accustomed to stronger bodied cigars, try one of these anyways as you might find it compliments your taste.

Be sure to checkout these other great reviews:

Oliva Connecticut Reserve Toro Gallery Pics

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

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 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