Brian’s The Week In Smoke, Issue 106

This time of year can be a lot of fun, but it doesn’t always afford me many opportunities to enjoy a fine cigar. Or a lot of time to write about (or video) the cigars I do get to enjoy. But I did my best to shoehorn in as many as I could. The silver lining is that I probably enjoyed the cigars I did get to smoke a little more than I do on the long, quiet days of summer. When you have fewer chances to smoke, you don’t do much absent-minded puffing. Anyway, before I start making a top ten list and checking it twice, determining which cigars have been naughty and nice…

It’s once time again for another issue of Brian’s The Week In Smoke. In case this is your first Week in Smoke, be advised that it covers many (though not necessarily all) of the cigars I’ve smoked in the past week (or the past month, or however long it has been since the last issue), along with a couple of quick thoughts that came to me at the time. These are not full cigar reviews, but quick blurbs based on a single smoking experience. As such, they may be influenced by the natural variations that occur from one cigar to another. Your mileage may vary. (If I know the cigar well enough to comment, I may mention if an experience strays from what understand to be the norm.)

An appearance in The Week in Smoke does not preclude nor guarantee a future in-depth review. Whenever possible, I’ve linked to more a thoughtful and thorough review of the cigar in question. (Or maybe I’ve linked to a photo of Jerry The ‘Stache. You won’t know until you click.) Enjoy!

Arturo Fuente Añejo 77 Shark
Shortly after the clock struck midnight and Christmas Eve technically gave way to Christmas Day, I lit up an Añejo 77 Shark and poured myself a glass of Prairie Artisan Ale’s Christmas BOMB! I chose the beer for obvious reasons, but also for less obvious reasons. Previous batches of it have had pretty distinct notes of tobacco, which a great, but somewhat uncommon flavor in beer. After a few cuts to get the draw right (the cold draw was like raisins and molasses) and several matches to ensure optimal foot toasting, I got down to business. And by business I mean drinking and smoking with my feet comfortably elevated. The initial puffs weren’t nearly as sweet as the cold draw, offering up dense chocolate, followed by wood and some spice. The Connecticut Maduro wrapper on this cigar is aged in Cognac barrels, but the boozy notes I got tasted more like rum. (Could be the influence of the beer.) It sweetened up as it burned, with molasses, raisins, cinnamon and eventually cedar making appearances. The beer proved to be a good pairing, the spices it brought to the table were nice reinforcements to the cinnamon already present in the Shark.

Dunhill Aged Maduro Short Robusto *
This uniformly (and possibly unnaturally) dark, short cigar has been sitting in one of my humidors since IPCPR. I didn’t recall enjoying the last sample I tried, but a quick look through the Stogie Review archives showed no entry for the Dunhill Aged Maduro in my many Weeks In Smoke. I was in need of a short cigar, and this was the only option at hand. I lit it up and my experience was better than my memory (real or imaginary) led me to believe it would be. This little guy was really putting out a lot of good and complex flavor. I noted chocolate, pepper, meaty notes, leather and lingering cedar. I enjoyed this cigar, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a medium smoke with a lot of flavor.

EP Carrillo Dusk Robusto Maduro
It occurred to me a little while back that excluding the trade show, I had not been to many cigar events in 2016. Cigar shops, sure, but not shops while events were in progress. The realization came when I heard that Jose Blanco was rolling through town doing one of his famous blending events. It had been even longer since I attended one of those. So of course I was going to go. While I was there, I picked up some of the fun new EP Carrillo product on sale, including the EP Carrillo Dusk. The big attraction for me here is the mysterious U.S.-grown wrapper leaf. When lit, the cigar immediately produced dark fruit notes like prune or raisin, along with chocolate and a touch of acidity. As it burned, pepper, earth and cedar also appeared. Oh and clove. A lot of it. I thought it was a good smoke, but wonder if that clove note might be a little much for some people.

Illusione eccj 2016
I think I made a miscalculation in smoking the Illusione eccj. I didn’t stop to think about the time of day- I waited too long to get around to lighting it up. That didn’t keep me from thoroughly enjoying the cigar (I nubbed it), but I suspect I may have missed some of the subtlety. The eccj had syrupy and minerally notes to start, later light pepper, lingering wood and almonds appeared. Toward the end caramel, musty earth and a touch of savoriness emerged. A light and refined cigar that I hope to find again. And if I do, I’m smoking it before noon.

La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull
I’ve had this big, impressive looking smoke in my humidor for a few weeks, part of collection of cigars I want to get in before the year ends. When I noticed it did rather well on a popular top cigars of the year list, I made a point to light it up next. In addition to being a substantial stick in the hand, it had really attractive, toothy reddish-brown wrapper. It didn’t take long for me to notice it was a slow burner, which should have come as no surprise given the weight of the cigar and apparent oiliness of the tobacco. The initial notes were sweet, berry-like and slightly creamy. As the cigar warmed up, rich leather, wood and mild spices took center stage. At the halfway point while wood and the earthy-paprika-cumin spices fought for dominance, I realized that up to that point the cigar had been surprisingly subtle. With a name like Andalusian Bull and a maker like La Flor Dominicana, you kind of expected to be trampled Pamplona-style. But the bull did run in the second half. The power picked up, and a raisin like sweetness appeared. What had been a struggle of wood and spices became more of a toasty-leathery combination with an aggressive spice backup. In all, it really was a great smoke. When I bought this cigar it was the first one out of the box. When I saw the box again a few weeks later, mine was still the only one missing. I’ll bet that’s about to change.

My Father The Judge Toro
Another cigar I managed to squeeze into the hectic holiday season is the big, beefed-up My Father blend called The Judge. I noticed when I put it to my lips the first time it imparted a great deal of spiciness. But spices didn’t kick in immediately when it was lit. Leather and peanut butter where the first flavors I noted in the dense, chewy smoke. After it warmed up a bit, the spices appeared, and they lingered. Graham, wood and caramel also arrived. The profile was considerably fuller and bolder than the original My Father from the very start. It continued to build as it burned, as I burned into the second half it struck me the cigar was now more about power than flavor. That being said, it’s a considerably better execution than a lot of cigars out there with a focus on potency. I don’t think I’m the target audience for this cigar, but I also thought it was an alright smoke. I am curious to try the shorter Grand Robusto vitola. I started to get bored with this Toro toward the end, so losing an inch might be just what the doctor ordered.

Rocky Patel Fifty Five Robusto
A while back I saw Ben Lee saying good things about the Rocky Patel Fifty-Five and it occurred to me that not only had I never had one, but my local shop had it in stock. That was an easy problem to fix. It started off light and pleasant with creamy, buttery and vanilla notes over top of some cocoa and earth. Then a short way in a surprising and distinct flavor emerged- a mint candy, like something I had years ago as a child. A little googling tells me the candy in question is probably called either “butter mints” or “wedding mints”. As crazy as that probably sounds, the flavor lasted until around halfway when the cigar transitioned into less sweet notes of leather and cedar. This is a cigar I will smoke again, if only to check on my sanity.

* Big Brother would have you know these cigars were gifts or free samples, and that my opinions on them is suspect. My opinions (and frost-bitten nose and toes) are my own, your response to them is your own. All your base are belong to us.

** I have too many smokes, and this denotes that the smoke in question has been sitting in one of my humidors for at least a year, and thus qualifies as “aged”. If my collection continues to grow, the chances are good I’ll be on that Discovery Channel show about people who hoard stuff and face eviction.

Some of the pictures in Brian’s The Week In Smoke first appeared on twitter or instagram. If you’d like to see these lists constructed in real time, follow Brian on twitter or instagram. If you don’t, you’ll make the Fail Whale cry. And he’s ugly when he cries.