Of Lancero’s and Latakia’s Part 1: Cigars

Those who know me well are most likely not surprised that I would dedicate at least one blog to the discussion of one of my all-time greatest past times: The partaking of the aged and seasoned tobacco leaf, specifically concerning that of the pipe and cigar.

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Cigars have taken a beating in the past few decades. they are neither politically correct nor healthful when consumed in excess. The use of the pipe – while for one considered simply “old hat” – is also too often associated with the addictive consumption in a somewhat similar manner of a foreign and most illegal substance. In truth, it is neither proper nor legally responsible to enjoy any other substance besides the rich tobacco leaf in a well seasoned tobacco pipe. And while there are those who take advantage of a daily cigar smoke, a tasteful Rubosto or Double Corona is to me best appreciated if respected as only an occasional treat.

I could go on for pages justifying my preferences in cigar tobacco, sizes, and brands. A few decades ago Cuba was considered the queen bee of tobacco origins, but now in this day and age there are no doubt some marvelous samples grown from the rich soils of: Dominican Republic, Connecticut and Florida USA, Spain, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil, Cameroon, Indonesia, Italy, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.

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My preference of course is that of Nicaraguan leaves, characterized in the palette by a rich earthiness and powerful complex vitality that often includes: cherries, figs, champaign, nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolate, dates, and honey. However nailing down the right strength and concoction of the stick is up to the discerning taste of the individual, and those who enjoy either a more subtle or more biting character will not be disappointed in looking towards the tobacco list shown above.

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Sizes of course vary from day to day and can vary also on the setting and time devoted to consumption. There are few things that rival the relaxation of a leather sofa and a few hours of enjoying a full sized “A”. On the other hand, when time is short, one may utilize the efficient but still potent “Short Story” or “Half Robusto”. Even still if one were particularly adventuresome, he or she may try a figurado such as a Pyramid, Torpedo, or Belicoso, or a wispy yet flavorful Pantela such as a Londsdale or Lancero.

US-available cigars worth considering:

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Arturo Fuente: Dominican Republic/Conn. Shade – The old standby. Great for beginners and veterans alike, this brand is known for rolling the particularly fancy Opus X line, along with the more illusive yet probably even more decadent Anejo “Shark”. And yet even the entry “green” band Gran Reserva is a favorite amongst close friends specifically the “Double Chateau” and “Royale Salute” which not only produce a mild and smooth flavor but garner also the remembrance of fond days gone by.

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Gran Habano: Honduras/Nicaragua/Costa Rica – With a notable characteristic and long finish, I am most fond of of the most potent line of this company – Corojo #5. It is not overpowering, but commands that one devote a bit more of his or her attention towards the cigar rather than a divergence such as a glass of red wine or hearty seasonal import.

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Dunhill: Dominican Republic/Cameroon/Nicaragua – Well seasoned smokers may recognize this brand for their fine pipes and excellent selection of tinned tobacco. Even older smokers may yet recognize this lingering brand as one of age old Cuban giants that could easily compete with the best of Cohiba, Romeo Y Julieta, and Montecristo. And yet until now not too much could be said about their vintage for States sales. Their “Signed Range” line, however may yield noteworthy attention. It is a delicate concoction of the best Cameroon and Nicaragua, is sweet, creamy, and medium bodied with lots of smoke and fine construction. One only hopes that such a strong production can last long enough to warrant a sound and durable reputation.

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Saint Luis Rey: Honduras/Nicaragua/Peru – Connoisseurs may recognize the more infamous Cuban brand under the same name. However, frugal buyers appreciate this Honduran stick because of its affordability. Fortunately, it does not swap quality for an attractive price tag as it is still quite a smoke, winning several outstanding scores from respected Cigar magazines for its complex flavors that include: pineapples, coconuts, and Cinnamon cream.

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Alec Bradley: Honduras/Nicaragua/Indonesia – Alec Bradley’s abundant line of varying sized sticks had accumulated mixed publicity for its consistency and quality… that is before he produced his Tempus line. What a smoke. Complex and full bodied. Wonderful flavors. Truly harmonious blends. This is a very impressive cigar that seems to only improve with age.

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Don Pepin Garcia: Nicaragua/Ecuador – I was always fond of Don Pepin’s fine line of cigars. I was particularly attracted to his Blue label which overflowed with quality, taste, and style. However I am most impressed with his new “My Father” which flowers with as much complexity as the origin of the tobaccos used to construct this masterpiece. The wrapper is a hybrid between Ecuadorian Habano and Criollo while the binder and filler are solid Nicaraguan. Definitely a must smoke.

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Padron: Nicuragua – Really the flagship of all Nicuraguan cigars and a standard by which ALL other cigars must be measured. Padron’s budget entry line is no sloucher, but the real magic happens within the confines of Padron’s pride and joy: the Serie 1926. All are box pressed, seasoned for years and bursting with flavor, full of chestnuts, flowers, nutmeg, chocolate, and cinnamon, and it is consistent as the coming of the sun. No one can roll a cigar as masterfully as Padron. It is a cigar for true cigar lovers. Well worth its hefty price.

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Oliva: Nicaragua – A relatively new brand of cigar, Oliva really did not catch my eye until the invention of the Serie V line. These are powerhouse smokes and in the hands of a novice it can elicit an ugly first experience. In the hands of a seasoned veteran however, a series V is a real luxury, with impeccable construction, perfect draw, and  a bouquet of flavors teaming with subtle nuances all for a quite a reasonable price. One of my all time favorites.

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There are of course many others I would love to recommend, but alas a truly fruitful exploration should be left in the hands of the willing explorer.

One last note: Though one may find it comforting to pair a flavorful cigar with a favorite import beer, a stemmed glass of red wine, a piping hot portion of wassail, or even a parcel or two of captivating literature, I find that enjoying a smoke is the most rewarding when in the company of the closest friends and family.

Truly, nothing warms the heart more than sharing memories and good times with those you love.

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I look forward to seeing you soon.

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2 Responses to “Of Lancero’s and Latakia’s Part 1: Cigars”

  1. How informative…does this mean I’m a Philistine because I enjoy Romeo y Julietas? Would be interested to see an article like this on Pipes…

  2. Romeo Y Julieta’s as a whole are difficult to recommend, because of their plethora of size selections, rolling locations, and diverse tobacco origins. With obviously more than one factory located in different countries rolling so many different kinds of tobaccos, I personally imagine that it’s difficult to keep the quality control up, and the ratings over the years support that.

    That being said, there’s a relatively newer line of Romeo Y Julieta that I’ve been very interested in trying for a while. It’s their “Habana Reserve” which is entirely made of Nicaraguan leaf. Have you ever had it? It has received some very good reviews which makes me want to test a couple of the figurado’s.

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