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These are roughly rolled, extra long, dry italian cigars, a fairly inexpensive smoke running about 3.25 for a pack of 2. They are an excellent smoke for the price. Tasting of autumn, with some early spice and a smooth finish, mine had good ash and an even burn. I felt like an italian  cowboy with one of these in my mouth. Suave and bad ass.

I don't have much to say here, except that this cigar would best be paired with activity, such as driving or riding on the range. A nice sweet drink, perhaps some fresh juice would also go well.
The other day I went to the local tobacco shop and picked up a handful of cigars.  I was looking for something cheap but still not horrible, so kept most of my purchases under $4.  Today I'm reviewing the Vista de Cuba by Oliveros, which is a medium-sized belicoso with not the most attractive wrapper.  It's sort of a lumpy cigar, but it burns surprisingly well and keeps a nice, even ash.  For the price, it's really remarkably tasty, and I think might beat out my previous favorite cheap cigars.

I'm keeping this short, because I'm not sure a cigar this inexpensive deserves a deep analysis.  But I think I can safely say that at $3.00 a stick, the Vista de Cuba is really, certainly worth the price.
La Aurora RobustoA good little smoke... for someone.

The draw is pretty good, if a little too easy for me on a cigar of this size. Dry aroma is wonderful. There are suggestions of moderate coffee and light cloves with a pleasing mild, dry
cedar background. Very tasty. Can edge toward the bitter end of the spectrum, but this never became annoying.

The wrapper is probably Cameroon, although here I think it is mostly detectable in the fairly complex finish. A good amount of nicotine, but not too strong-- satisfying. Later in the smoke, the character changes and becomes a tad liquorice. This is an unusual note and some people will probably love it.

The construction is good, a little uneven. The wrapper won't be winning any beauty contests-- more of a "certificate of participation" contestant, in the show but not in the running. My wrapper was mostly smooth with some small veins, and slightly oily.

This is a light to medium bodied cigar that smoked well to the end. Robustos are just never my favorite size for some reason, but I certainly enjoyed this-- though I was happy I didn't have too many of them, as the character simply wasn't in line with my preferences.

This would be an excellent smoke with a lighter cognac, good Irish whiskey, or perhaps calvados. It is priced well, but wasn't exactly my cup of tea at the end of the day.
Saint Luis Rey CoronaTasty! Creamy, rich cedar flavors immediately hit and never let up. A super cigar for the money!

I got twenty of these in sets of five cellophane packs, and have to say that the wrapper color looks to be extremely consistent across all the packs.

Good draw, though on the firm side. Medium-full bodied and rich, very solid woodsy-spicy core flavor but not much complexity. The tobacco has hardly got a hint of harshness. I find it somewhat boring-- but also more than somewhat tasty. Produced loads of creamy, delicious, throughly pleasant smoke!

As it progresses, the flavor becomes somewhat more intense and leathery, but remains primarily monodimensional. I'd be disappointed if these were particularly expensive, but they aren't! They remain as they begin: pleasing, full and rich, solidly forward.

What's more to be said? A good, nicely made cigar with flavors I enjoy that smokes well and is an excellent value. Quite the pleasure for the price, and a winner for me.

The pros: Very good press, and the draw is excellent-- construction exceeds the expectation I'd have at this price point.

The cons: Maybe not the finest tobacco.

Light-medium in flavor, with plenty of smoke but unfortunately also some acridity early in the finish that I found unwelcome. Smoking it very slowly, especially on account of its draw, helped a lot. Nice size and shape for me.

Now, here's where it gets strange. There's a suggestion of fennel, and in a bad mood I might describe that as "teasingly herbacious, but regrettably bitter". However, smoking it put me in a good mood, so I will instead say that this is one unique-tasting stick!

There's a little acridity on the finish that follows a core of either Sen-Sens (although of course far more mild) or even cedar forest and hay, yet it is more appropriate to describe the flavor overall as unique, rather than leaving the impression that it is an especially complex smoke: it's just difficult to pin down. A mild hint of dark coffee wafts in now and again. Maybe it will make more sense when you try one.

That's it for my feeble attempt at explaining this thing with flowery language, so I'll get directly to my feelings: this is a good cigar for the money, and I think you'd be squarely pressed to find something better constructed at this price point. It is strange tasting, but not unpleasant. I would smoke this again-- a good thing, since I have plenty-- but probably not be inclined
to buy a box. On the other hand, I can also easily imagine this being someone's very favorite cigar for the money.

If you like its character, then about all you will want to ask of it is that it might burn more evenly or be prettier. Otherwise, you're probably going to be in heaven. At the price, if you try one and like it, it's likely a no-brainer. On the other hand, this could come across as somewhat dull or just plain bizarre on a different day.

This is probably a great cigar to go along with a good stiff drink, maybe a little akavit...

I am obliged to point out that the name "Magic Mountain" comes from the Thomas Mann novel of the same name, in which the Maria Mancini brand is mentioned.

(From a Private Communique, dated IX XXX MMVIII, found in memorabilia of the
Aloisius Bartholomew Reginald Masterson-Smythe collection. I report with minimal editing; the remainder of the entry follows.)

The Macanudo 1968 Caper
part the third

        Wreaths of smoke crowned our heads and filled the room with opulent aromas. Hasim and I nodded our heads as we bandied. This strange Macanudo cigar left us puzzled: was our long-time foe truly making a gesture of reconciliation, or had the Einrich the Teuton crafted a masterly deception?

        Much debate on either side ensued; we passed the cigar between us, so as to dilute any Frankish poisons it might contain. The cigar seemed to be an innocuous puzzlement.

        "Curious," observed my Arabian friend, "this is at once reminiscient of both old library upholstry and apricots, although that not an unpleasant taste."

        It seemed a strange comparison to me, but when he handed the cigar back to me I pondered his words and found myself nodding in agreement. We exchanged the Macanudo at a mad pace, each trying to understand what was happening and yet avoid any Teutonic poison slipped in by the treacherous Einrich.

        "Einrich's great fondness for fine cigars is not yet so well-grown as his penchant for treachery. I am uneasy that he should not have had some ulterior motive. I begin to worry that he might be... sincere."

        I was nodding in agreement when I exclaimed "Hold! The bitterness is intensifying, and the flavors now are of old stale muffins-- the draw waxes tight! What treachery is this?"

        We smoked more slowly, wondering if this was at last the vile poison we had feared. Yet, the clouds of smoke were not miasmic-- merely too bitter for pleasure.

        I noticed that the cigar had begun to run a little bit, but took a few more puffs anyway. The strength began to mature, and it was soon clear that the only poison in the cigar was a deceptively high amount of nicotine.

        "This begins to bore me, my friend. Clearly it is not poisoned. There is a bit more flavor here toward the end, yet it is the exact same flavor. The acridity comes and goes, the dry taste sometimes more reminiscent of smoking the box instead of the cigars inside of it."

        I nodded. "The burn has rectified itself, the run is corrected. And yet, my head begins to spin a little-- indeed, Hasim, this is far stronger tobak than I had suspected!"

        Hasim nodded sagely, his Arabian eyes drooping thoughtfully.

        "I admit that there is some craft here," I said "yet, it seems to me that this humdrum Macanudo-- though disguised with some art-- remains a naive smoke to the end."

        Scratching my chin, I motioned for my dwarf to bring the tobacco-jar. Long we three talked, planning how best to extend our goodwill to Einrich, who had not poisoned us after all. Peddigrew the albino dwarf brought sherry, and we made merry long into the perfumed night.

        "Soon," I thought to myself, "Soon I shall have my own revenge."

H Upmann CoronaI just smoked a rather enjoyable cigar, an H Upmann Corona given to me by Mr Williamson. This is a nicely colored cigar, with a wrapper the color of coffee with plenty of cream in it. The wrapper was a bit blotchy, but didn't look too bad. It smelled very inviting, like all of the good parts of a barnyard on a nice winter morning.

Well, I clipped the cigar and before lighting it, discussed with Mr Williamson how my article on smoking a cigar without accidentally inhaling seems to have become very popular, and now gets far more hits than any other article on the website. This was a trick that he had originally taught me, you see, and he was rather stunned that it hadn't been mentioned more often elsewhere. Anyhow, I lit the cigar. I'd like to think I wasn't lighting badly, but it burned horribly uneven for the first half-inch. I was immediately greeted with a healthy dose of spicy flavor that mellowed quickly into a sort of creamy cedar.

Once the cigar self-corrected its poor light, it became a very pleasant smoke. It had a pretty good nicotine strength to it, but it was not overpowering. While the ash was not particularly solid nor well-formed, it was a very attractive white color. We smoked outdoors in the brisk fall air. A massive tree loomed over us dropping yellow leaves every now and again, and the sun filtered through the branches, providing a little bit of warmth. It was a gorgeous afternoon for smoking.

The Upmann had a very pleasant, easy draw and as it continued to burn its flavor grew in body and lost some of the subtleties it initially possessed, which was very nice. The fullness of the smoke was moderate and not quite as big and silky as I enjoy. And the cigar went out slightly past the halfway point, probably because I was doing too much talking and not enough puffing. It was, overall, a pleasant cigar, and I'll give it a good solid three stars. It might be worth smoking again, but I'm going to try other cigars first.


(From a Private Communique, dated IX XXX MMVIII, found in memorabilia of the
Aloisius Bartholomew Reginald Masterson-Smythe collection. I report with minimal editing; the remainder of the entry follows in two parts.)

The Macanudo 1968 Caper
part the second

    Peddigrew had fastidiously scraped the palimpsest, and so my strokes lay both long and firm along the vellum:

        Esteemed Hasim,

           I have received a mysterious package from Einrich the Teuton, borne far over the sea in the hands of none other than the fastidious Chinaman, Chang. It contains a single cigar, the likes of which are puzzling to me. For, while it sports the pedestrian label of the banal Macanudo brand, this label is yet emblazoned with gold, and the cigar is moreover of promising construction! I am bewildered.

        If the traitorous Einrich is duplicitous in this, it shall bring us at last to a mortal duel; however, if he gifts this tobacco in sincerity, I must-- as a gentleman-- accept it.

        I purpose, Hasim, to try this stuff and call the Teuton's bluff! You are wise in the ways of his treachery, having overcome much in your adventures, and so I call upon you to second me: should he poison me, I leave it unto  you to scour the lands for him, and bring his reign of questionable fashion and pop-music at last to an end.

        In Fraternity, sealed,

        Lord Alocious Betram Bartholomew Masterson Wilkinson-Smythe, Esq.

    I gave the dwarf a moment to recover himself and dust his trousers.

    "Peddigrew, I trust you like no other. Ever have you been my loyal servant, though I see you suffer from your albinism and muteness. You have more strengths than man four times your height. Devoutly devoted dwarf, I task you with this, a most urgent errand: Deliver this palimpsest directly unto Hasim the Turk, and no other. Though the journey is long, I can only trust you in this. Be swift!"

    I believe I saw a tear in my manservant's eye as he slathered on his sunscreen and bore my message afar. I had saved Peddigrew from great abuse many years before, when he served the cruel Indonesian warlord Budi, whose vile plot to combine eggs and pancakes I foiled in the decisive Adventure of the Dijonnaise Ovum-- but, I have chronicled that already. I had some sherry to calm my nerve while I waited for him to get back from next door.

    Merely a few hours later, my manservant returned. He was followed by a team of large eunuchs bearing a gilt open litter upon which Hasim rode. The marmelukes placed out many cushions and spices in my drawing room, along with censers of fragrant incense. They set down the sedan, and stood facing the walls as Hasim made himself comfortable.

    "They are very loyal, but they keep insisting on treating me as an Arab, when I am a so clearly a Turk!", he exclaimed. "My friend, your letter commanded my attention. We must attend to this dilemma, and arrive at a solution."

    "Your Turkish blood does you right, Hasim", I said, "this is most vexing. I worry that an attempt is being made upon my life, for I cannot leave this gift unsmoked as it would show my insincerity, and yet I cannot smoke it lest it is poisoned. Einrich's Teutonic plot can only be foiled by your Hunnish cunning!"

    "In this, you are wise", said Hasim. The Turk pondered a while, gesturing to a eunuch for his hookah.

    I showed the 1968 to my friend. As he examined it, Hasim's mistrust grew. Looking at the mysterious Macanudo and finding, as I had, its very firm structure and well-colored moderately-veined wrapper suspiciously remarkable for a smoke of its breeding, he inhaled doubtfully.

    At long last, he rose and walked over to me with great determination.

    "We must smoke it together", he nodded. "In this way, should the cigar be genuine, it's pleasure shall be diluted, but in the sharing with a friend re-magnified: it shall be just as if you had it all to yourself. If, on the other hand, it is a devious trap, the poison shall be split amongst the two of us, and we shall both live for our revenge."

    "Fine young Turk!", I exclaimed, "That's brilliant!"

    Being far more correctly proportioned than the eunuchs for the purpose, Peddigrew was enlisted to bring long matches and sweep the ashes from Hasim's beard and my Caucasian rugs. Match was put to Macanudo.

    We steeled ourselves for the task. I put on my monocle and jacket, while Hasim swallowed the tiniest dose of his special Turkish Thunder mixture in preparation. It was a very special mixture which helped him greatly in times of dire need. The dwarf stood loyally within arm's reach, and then fire was put to the Macanudo 1968.

    "Hm", said Hasim, "Yes. This wrapper has a moderate flavor, around a fairly mild core. The draw is very satisfactory, although the taste is a shade bitter."

    My brow furrowed with curiosity, I took the cigar from Hasim, and brought it to my lips.

    "Yes, I do detect a subtle acridity on the finish. Perhaps that is Einrich's sinister poison, but if it is, then he has hidden it well beneath flavors of light wood, and every now and again a hint of slight fruit or caramel."

    It was not unusual for the Turk and I to expatiate in this strange way. We found that sometime the details mattered, and this might well be one of those cases, as our lives perhaps depended upon it...

Perdomo Lot 23 Belicoso

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I wanted to return to a line of cigars which I knew I enjoyed, but still was not one with which I had a great deal of familiarity. I decided on the Perdomo Lot 23 line, which Mr Maujean and I reviewed at the beginning of September. In the mood for something more substantial, I picked the Perdomo Lot 23 Belicoso Maduro, a beautiful, dark chocolatey brown cigar that has a slightly oily sheen to it. I was quite eager to smoke this beauty when I lifted it out of the humidor, and inhaled its effluvia as soon as possible. It smelled of earth and leather with slight hints of compost.

I cut the end and lit it, tasting quickly a nice burst of spice followed by cream, earth, and a full, rich smoke that had a surprisingly cool and sweet mouth feel. Right away, however, I noticed how the characteristically broad Perdomo cigar band was a bit too large for this cigar. It overlapped the sloped end of the belicoso and sort of interfered with my lips. Upon removing the band, I noticed a few minor imperfections in the wrapper, but I did not let those deter me. Indeed, as the cigar progressed I noticed some rich, woody flavors (cedar, perhaps?) and a continuing nice fullness of body.

The cigar finished with notes of cedar and leather. It had a healthy nicotine kick and rich, beautiful smoke up to the end. Overall, this cigar was at least as enjoyable, if not more so, than the lighter Lot 23 we smoked last time. I'd probably not recommend this cigar for absolute beginners, but for those interested into dipping into the world of full-bodied, stronger cigars, it would be tough to go wrong with this beauty. I'll give it four well-earned stars.


The JR Alternative: Yikes

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Recently Jesse was kind enough to give me a few cigars, which I was happy to accept.  Two of them were JR Cigar branded sticks, I believe part of their JR Alternative line.  This particular line of cigars is intended to provide low-cost similar-tasting alternatives to high-end cigars.  In fact, Jesse bragged to me, "I got sixty of them for forty bucks!"  When I did the math later I realized that he only spent $1.33 on those two cigars, I still felt like perhaps he was getting ripped off.

So anyhow, yesterday I was about to go for a walk, and felt like smoking a cigar on my stroll.  I put on my best three-piece brown town suit, fitted a brown bowler hat upon my head, and popped open the humidor.  Not knowing what was in store for me, I pulled out one of these JR Alternatives and lit it up.  Wait, let's rewind a bit and talk about what this thing looked like.  It had a pale wrapper, perhaps a Connecticut leaf, that was splotchy and veiny.  There were some dark lines here and there that made it look as if the leaf had been creased and then pressed out again, and the texture was rather rough and dry.  Small imperfections littered the cigar: holes, knobs, scrapes, and so forth.  Plus, the cigar felt rather lumpy.  There were a few places beneath the wrapper where it seemed to rather cave in.  The unlit stick smelled quite strongly of compost and wet grass, which isn't always bad, but in this case didn't seem very appetizing.

I wouldn't give up, however.  I lit it up, and was immediately rewarded with a smell not unlike burning cardboard.  As it smoked, it did burn rather evenly, though I have no idea how.  When the mold-grey ash was tapped off, it revealed an uneven roll with some unattractive hollow spots.

The flavor overall was not enjoyable, either.  Overwhelmingly spicy at first, with the sort of acidic feel that works its way all the way down your throat and up the backs of your nostrils.  I was not enjoying that.  There was also an element of sourness that I didn't enjoy much.  Overall it was a chore to smoke this cigar, and I put it out just about at the halfway point, hoping for it to improve.

In closing, while I'm very grateful that Jesse gave me some cigars, I'm fairly certain his tastebuds (and mine) would be better off spending sixty bucks on forty cigars than vice versa.  I'm going to give this cigar one star, because it did light on fire, and that's pretty much the first thing you can ask for in a rolled up lump of tobacco.  Sorry, Jesse!

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