Nothing like some great cigars and great times with fellow BOTL’s…

Had the opportunity a week or so ago now to get together with some good friends / BOTL’s at the pad of one of them, and we shared some great cigars and times.  We had the chance to go over some of the Havana hijinx, which a couple of them missed out on this year.

Our gracious host for the evening had a lacklustre bar set-up though, LOL…



Some great cigars were traded back and forth, and I had the chance to enjoy some of the following:

Monsdale, Nov 2014 roll – from the recent Cuba trip, of which I brought a bunch of these for the various attendees. Enjoyed this with some lovely Chianti, and in between some Pizzaiolo gourmet pizzas (the Godfather, and the Soprano).

Cohiba Robusto, Oct 2013 “BTO” – gifted this in kind from our generous host for the evening. Really got into this bad boy, drinking a Coke while smoking this, quite a noted powerhouse experience for this El Laguito rolled stick. Big, bold flavours – very interested to see what this production run ends up smoking like at about the 3-5 year mark.

I was also gifted a couple of other stellar sticks from the gents that night – a 2007 QdO Panatela, a 1970’s cello-wrapped RA Topper, and a lovely smelling Partagas 898.

A great night. No muss, no fuss; just a few nice cigars, great drinks, awesome BOTL’s, and awesome times.

Cigar Review – Cohiba Piramides EL 2001, Unk. code; Final Score – 93

So, in “recovery” mode after last month’s Encuentros Partagas, I decided to indulge a little for some good “me-time”.

This cigar was from a charity auction event, and as such, I’m not 100% sure of the box code from this sample.  My initial plan was to set this aside, and save it for a special event.  Well, simply, surviving the monsoon week we had in Havana, the digestive issues of a fair few of us, and having my wallet get raped by Customs on my way back, well, frankly, an afternoon to myself to sit back in the hot tub and indulge was enough of a special event for me.

This was my first of these, that I recollect, since I got back into cigars in 2005 or so and started keeping records in a Cigar Dossier (highly recommend it to those who want helpful tasting notes at hand, and are quite simply, uhhhh, anal retentive enough like me to keep up with it, LOL).  I think I might have tried a couple of these when they came out, but I’m not 100%, and there’s nothing in my recent notes.  So, for all intents and purposes, I was really going into this cigar with a blank slate.  Albeit, with some hopes.

obviously the first of these, and one of only a very few handfuls of LFDC cigars I’ve even smoked.  I don’t really have a “brand profile” for these in mind, so I’d like to think it was as neutral of a one-up tasting for this cigar that I was able to do, without this being a fully-blind tasting.

A revered cigar – how did it fare?

Reviewed Cigar:  Cohiba Piramides EL 2001

Box Date:  Unk. (2001-2002 production, 2002 release)

Factory / Manufacture Code:  Unk.

Packaging:  Came in 25-boxes, varnished semi-boite nature box

Price per cigar:  Unk. initial cost, paid $110 or so at the charity auction

Length:  6 1/8″, or 156 mm

Ring Gauge:  52

Format:  Pyramid

Weight:  Unk. (forgot to weigh this bad boy)

Construction/Appearance & Pre-Light:  This cigar was quite nice.  A darker wrapper with an ever-so-slight sheen, this cigar actually had a nice, maduro-like-but-silky wrapper.  Early Edicion Limitada program cigars were (and sometimes still are) characterized by thick, heavy, fire-retardant wrapper leaves.  In the early years of the EL program, it was only the wrapper leaves that were aged for at least 2 years (as opposed to 6-12 months usually), but all EL releases since about 2007, if I recall correctly, have all tobaccos used aged to at least this 2 year mark (my Trinidad Ingenios EL 2007 were part of the start of this).

This cigar’s only real blemish I could find, construction-wise, was one small water spot on the wrapper – and, while it’s noticeable on the darker wrapper, it does NOTHING to affect the performance of the cigar, nor my scoring on construction.  The foot itself was also very nicely bunched and arranged, and the colour palate to the rich tobaccos within were wonderful – a great “mixing” evident in there.  No hard or soft spots – construction-wise, this thing was in the Goldilocks zone!

After clipping the head, taking some cold draws….mmmm, rich black tea with a honey tinge.  Almost a dark element there – old leather perhaps?

Opening Impressions:  After a lighting up and initial draws, the opening had a perfect draw and smoke volumes – took to flame and lit well.  Light wispy smoke, but fairly potent and powerful – big hits of earth and leather.  No “Cohiba-ness” to it at all (not surprising, with the EL thing).

First Third:  Into the first third, I noticed that the burn was easily transitioning the burning cigar to darker charcoal-coloured ash, which was somewhat soft and flakey.  The smoke wasn’t creamy or overly viscous.  Thin smoke, but some decently potent flavours there.  Sitting just above the medium mark on boldness, but just below on potency.  Some mild black pepper on the retrohale, but lots of leather and earth on the tongue.  Some dark black tea in there too.

While the smoke itself was thin, I was still getting big smokey mouthfuls when pulled on.  Blue smoke off the burnt end, pure white, almost fog-like smoke on the exhale from the mouth, and mildly-dark grey charcoal ash – this thing was a colour palate.

Second Third:  Into the second third, it was continuing along somewhat similarly.  Burn was continuing to be fairly wonky, but no so bad as to need a torch correction.  Mild leather stepping back now, hmmm….

Big, rich, smokey honey tinges.  Almost to a slightly darkened-but-not-quite-burnt caramel tone.  Yup – rich, dark, unfiltered, smoke-riddled honey.  Man, it blended so nice with the mild leather and earthiness of this cigar.

Almost got hints of old hay, swinging in and out of the dark honey hits – when one faded out, the other one stepped in.

Final Third:  Into the final third, similar to the second in burn qualities.  Needed to do some torch touch-ups – the burn just wouldn’t find that razor’s edge.  The honey and hay sweetness started to subside, and then gave way to a flow right back to the old leather and earthiness, this time accompanied by that dark black tea essence in full stride.

Smoked this puppy right down.  Deeee-lish.

Finishing Comments / Overall Impression:  This cigar was a treat.  A much-needed, wanted, and enjoyed treat.  The wonky burn and such deflected a few points, and parts of it were a bit more bland than others, but without that nice, potent perfumy aspect that I find so lovely with aged cigars in the 10-15+ year range.  Was hoping to get that with this one, and it lost out on not having that present.

All that said…

Price justification (either for this cigar as a single or as a box currently)???

No, not really.  While I was glad to purchase it as some of my planned money outlay at the charity auction, it wasn’t a dollar-performer for me.  Still a wonderful experience nonetheless, and whether it cost me $20 or $200 wouldn’t have affected the score allotted for this singular smoking experience.  It’s just one to be scratched off the list, so to speak.



While there were some dark honey qualities hiding in the experience, there was no Cohiba-esque-ness (if that’s a word, LOL) to this cigar for me.  None of that lemongrass and beaniness to it (vanilla bean, light coffee bean).  While there was honey in strides, the leather and earthiness took away from that a bit for me.

And, I have to say, with the overall flavours as it came across my palate, mixed in with the hay tinges, I couldn’t help but think:  My gawd, this should be labelled as a Trinidad Piramides!!!

It got me to thinking – now, THAT is a blend that could really work well in a piramides.  Amazing that they haven’t done that yet, in adding a pyramid to the Trinidad line – but, then again, it’s perhaps not that surprising given their past actions in butchering the line apart, discontinuing the Trinidad Robustos T that many loved so much (and only after a minimal time on the market), and their current actions in loveless quality control that’s been going on with Trinidad in recent years (its sooooo hard to find decent boxes of Fundadores lately!)

But, a great experience nonetheless, but to see this blend with a Trinidad label on it would strike me as more in keeping than with the Cohiba band.

Final Score:  93

Total Smoking Time:  1 hour and 25 minutes

Date & Time Smoked:  November 27th, 2014; lit up at 1:40 pm, done at 3:05 pm

Paired Beverage:  El Dorado 12 & Coke

Last Meal:  Three cheese hamburger helper, 12:30 pm

Smoking Conditions:  Mild wind, overcast, 1 degree Celsius, 73% RH

Thanks for reading my review.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Cheers all.

Obama all but lifting certain items in the Cuban Embargo – a huge step!!!

HOLY CRAP (on so many levels)!!!!

Of note:

  • normalizing relations for first time since 1961
  • exchange of people and money to be normalized
  • American banks and credit cards allowed to process transactions from Cuba
  • America re-opening Embassy in Cuba / Havana
  • “…licensed American travellers to Cuba will now be able to return to the U.S. with $400 in Cuban goods, including tobacco and alcohol products worth less than $100 combined. This means the long-standing ban on importing Cuban cigars is over, although there are still limits.”
  • Canada hosted the majority of the meetings working towards this (time will tell if the world and/or Americans specifically need to thank us Canucks, or if something happens to screw this all up!)

Living as the elderly in Cuba…

Living (if you can call it that lately) as the elderly in Cuba is getting harder and harder – hell, living as a young Cuban isn’t much better at times.  We saw that especially with our recent visit to the Lung Kong Society in Havana last month.  It’s been getting noticeably harder and harder for people in Cuba’s economy over the past few years, and it’s getting more and more noticeable every time I / we go down.  And so, I have a video to share here.

One of the people I enjoy meeting up with is Nino, who invited us in with the Lung Kong visits (previously and this past trip).  Nino put up his own report on our recent Lung Kong group visit, with some great pics from fellow Canadian traveller John Reiner.  This support to Lung Kong is close to Nino’s heart as a fellow elderly person (sorry Nino – had to get that one in there! LOL.)  While I may joke with that, his passion has rubbed off on many of us, and re-kindled our own desires to help.  For example – the effort is close to Tom’s and Edward’s hearts; I began missionary work and volunteering in high school in the mid-90’s, and I have lost so many of my elders lately (only 1 grandparent remaining); so many others just have an urge to help.

Sometimes, turning around a new-to-us street corner in Cuba gives you a proverbial bitch-slap-in-the-face.  Here we are, a bunch of privileged foreigners, on a trip to indulge in cigars, rum, and food at restaurants that most Cubans can’t even dream of eating at, and then we run into the sometimes-hard-to-comprehend realities of modern life in Cuba.  You see it everywhere, that the disparities in modern Cuba illustrate the gross realities of the “haves” and “have-nots”.  Those that have access to tourist dollars – be it through the cigar industry, hotels and tourism, nightclubs, prostitution, etc. – have a good standard of living, supplementing their monthly “allotments” from the State, and hopefully are sourcing enough additional revenue to help support the rest of their family.  Sometimes, families that don’t have access to this are left on the sidelines, living in near- or abject-poverty, while the State is becoming more and more powerless to assist (for various political and economic factors that I’m not going to delve into here).  Unfortunately, sometimes these elderly people are left on the sidelines.

And yet, all of them, the Cuban people as a whole, have this bittersweet zest for life that infects us all, and continues to pull us back.  They have this heartwarming openness that makes us all feel like long-lost members of a larger family, gladly welcomed home.

A while ago, Nino shared with me a documentary made in 2011 about life for the elderly and pensioners in Cuba.  The reality they face is living off of about 200 Cuban pesos a month (not CUC’s, but CUP’s) – that’s only about $8 US currently!  From grocery store staff, to former commanders in Castro’s revolution, they get pennies a day to survive.  Not enough money to pay the bills at least.  The video, called “At The End of The Road” can be found here, in Spanish but subtitled in English:

Not much has changed since the making of that video.  In fact, it’s my understanding and observations that things have progressively got worse.  Prices get higher.  In-demand items are harder to obtain.  Salaries/pensions stay the same.  Tourism (a huge source of generalized income across the nation) continues to wax and wane in the post-2008-recession world.

Hopefully this video will help illustrate some abject realities of modern Cuban life to those new to Cuba, either thinking about travelling there for a first time, or going back and staying away from all the resort and cigar festival hub-bub.  That’s why many of us, when we can, overload our luggage with gifts and donations for whomever we can (careful – donations is a dirty word to Cuban customs!)

If you go down, don’t bring the pencil crayons and toiletries and such for your maids.  While that’s a nice gesture, it’s not what’s most needed – everyone brings that stuff.  Do something different.  Bring a nice bottle of wine or two, step out of the resorts, and give it to someone who you know likely hasn’t had a drop of a nice libation in a year or more.  Bring some cooking or baking goods, and give it to someone in need (I love to bring maple syrup, cliche I know, and Aunt Jemima’s just-add-water pancake mix).  Bring a horde of chocolates or candies, little everyday-to-us delicacies, and donate it to an overlooked school to use as treats / rewards for the students (mini Mars bars or Cadbury Creme Eggs, Canadian-centric goodies that are certified nut-free are good ideas).  Bring some everyday items, and give it to a social club or a church group.  Bring car parts, bicycle tires, OTC medicines, home reno items.  Since we’re all linked through cigars, visit a finca, visit the countryside (something I admit I don’t do enough), get out of the resorts and such – tip well when out in these outlying areas, as sometimes the financial support doesn’t flow too well outside of Varadero and Havana.

It’s a flawed system, no doubt about that.  The Cuban government has to figure out a solution.  And no one says that what myself or others are doing is the right measure anyways.  But in the meantime, we can do what we can.

Cheers all.

Who’s ready for Havana in February 2015???

So, some of us are still recovering from the Partagas Encuentros that was in November.  Me following that up with a deer hunting week definitely has made me draaaaaag my way into December.  I’ve got a bunch of great reviews to be put up here during the next two weeks – some great aged stuff, some wonderfully classic LE’s, and some new up-and-coming releases and other rarities.

In the meantime, I’m looking at the New Year.  The 17th edition of the Habanos Festival is due to be held during February 23rd to 27th.  If it works out for me with some various work options and scheduling things going on, I’m looking at taking a jaunt down there for this one.  As such, I’ve received a copy of the preliminary event itinerary, and thought I’d share it here…

Preliminary program 17th Habanos Festival (Feb 2015)

So, hope it’ll work out, and I can meet up in Havana once again with old and new friends alike.

Cheers all.