Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hopefully, not the last Airbender. Review: La Flor Dominicana Airbender Maestro

The truth is, we’re all biased. It is hard to remain objective on anything especially when so many things can influence our opinions, thoughts, and decisions. That being said, I am not necessarily partial to one brand of cigars over the other…for the most part. All smugness aside, I’ll leave it with this: La Flor Dominicana will always be my first love when it comes to cigars.

I remember the first time I had a La Flor; Monday, December 9, 2002. As the first semester of my college career was coming to a close, it had been a rough one. I was adjusting to time away from the only home I had ever known, classes, time management, social obligations, girls, and life unexpected as it came. I walked into my local cigar spot, a place you can still find me 1-2 times a week, and the place was especially crowded for a Monday. “Damn,” I thought, I came here to study for my Biology final that was the next day, and I was not about to blow my first college final. As I made my way through the crowd a large and tall gentleman with a brown mustache touched me on the shoulder and asked, “Son, have you ever tried a La Flor Dominicana?” I replied simply, “No.” The gentleman proceeded to talk to me about Litto Gomez (the maker of La Flor), the mystique of the ligero tobacco leaf, and trying to convince me that this was the greatest smoke on earth. Mind you, I had recently graduated from Titan Phillies and Swishers to Romeo y Julietas, Partagas, and Macanudos. I thought I knew what a premier cigar was. I hadn’t even heard of Rocky Patel, Paul Garmirian, Camacho, or even Ashton at this point.

The guy was so dedicated to me not smoking any cigar but his, he gave me one for free. And what a cigar it was, a beautiful 6x56 Double Ligero Toro. That guy knew what he was talking about even if he was full of it. I smoked that stogie down to the nub and bought five La Flors to take back to my dorm. Standing was a feat, while walking was damn near impossible. That tobacco high had me floating. Ahh, was I ever that young?

Ever since that fateful day, I have followed the production of La Flor Dominicana.  In fact, if it weren't for these cigars I probably wouldn't be the cigar aficiando I am today or even love cigars as much as I do.  So, mom, if you want to blame somebody, ha!

Litto Gomez, along with his wife, Ines Lorenzo-Gomez, entered the industry in the mid-1990s.  After a few speedbumps, they buckled down and began investing their time with some of the best people in the business.  They built their business slowly, improving their product until they eventually had their own factory.  Backed by the old mantra of, "quality over quantity, they are now a major player in the world of cigars.

Gomez, who happens to be a huge fan of Kung Fu movies, named his latest creation after the story made famous by Japanese anime and the M. Night Shyamalan feature due for release this summer.  The Air Bender sports a Cuban-seed Ecuadorian Habano wrapper that is the same leaf that Gomez used on his 95-rated Solomon from 2009.  The binder and filler hail from, of course, the Dominican Republic. 

I selected the "Maestro" size for this review.  At five inches in length with a 52 gauge, it allowed me the perfect-sized sample of this new creation.

The wrapper and construction is nearly flawless with one visible seam along the side.  The dark brown color is gorgeous and solid with a pre-light smell of dark robust earth and lingering pepper.  The dry draw also has some pepper and leather.  I can tell this cigar is going to be a powerhouse before I even light it.  I use a guillotine cutter to clip the end off and light the foot with a match.

I was right.  The first few puffs are filled with power and strength.  The earthy flavored foundation is coated with spice, spice and oh yeah, I forgot...more spice. The aroma is not very pronounced, but has subtle hints of nutmeg and pepper.

As I continue to smoke, the ash begins to show its amazing solid light gray color.  The burn begins to even up a bit more and the draw pulls in just the right amount of smoke.  The aroma builds while the strength subsides.  This stogie has a great mouth-feel and a creaminess that coats the palate with the perfect amount of smoke.

As I approach the middle of the cigar, I notice that the creaminess has built up quite a bit with lingering notes of caramel and nutmeg.  The character of the cigar has developed quite the flavor profile.

Rich, sweet and strong has been the consistent characteristics of La Flor Dominicanas over the years and the Air Bender follows suit in its own unique way.  The creamy smoke, earthy core, and subtle sweet notes push the Airbender up the list of favorites and may be the most solid creation by Gomez yet.

This stogie finishes very well with almost no bitterness.  The lingering strength is only complimented with the subtle notes of caramel and nutmeg.  I chose an anejo rum as my complimentary beverage after a recommendation from another connosieur.  I think bourbon, scotch, port, stout beer, or french roast coffee would also be excellent compliments to the Airbender.

Gomez is quoted saying that the Airbender is "no sissy cigar."  I fully agree.  If you're a mild or even a medium cigar smoker, I urge to tread lightly.  However, if you are used to full-bodied stogies or want to venture out a bit, then I really recommend the Airbender.

My Ratings:

Appearance - 10

Pre-light taste- 9
Construction - 9
Draw - 9
Burn - 8
Aroma - 8
Flavor - 10
Balance - 9
Finish- 10

Total Rating: 9.1

Smoke on guys and gals and remember, there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cigar Review: Brick House Robusto

I knew I wanted to review this cigar the moment I read about its release from the J.C. Newman Cigar Company.  The Churchill received an awesome '91' rating from Cigar Aficionado Magazine in its last issue of 2009.  I planned in indulging in one of those for this review, but when my local cigar shop only had one robusto left, I took it as a sign.  According to, the robusto lies more on the medium flavored front than its counterparts that finish more on the fuller side.  

First, a little background for the uneducated.  The original Newman, Julius Caesar (J.C.) Newman, immigrated to America in 1888.  Seven short years later he founded J.C. Newman Cigar Co., which is the oldest family-owned cigar maker still standing in the U.S. today.  One of Newman's earliest releases was Brick House, an omage to his heritage.  Growing up as a child in his village, the building he called home was the only brick structure around.  It was not only his home, but also served as the town's tavern.  For decades, his friends, family, neighbors and travelers gathered at the end of a hard day's work to drink, eat, smoke and enjoy the company of others. 

Of course, like all other ol' world cigars, J.C. made most of his prized products from the rich tobacco that hailed from Cuba.  The original Brick House was no exception.  Today, the company is run by J.C.'s grandsons, Eric and Bobby, who have re-released this omage in their family's honor.  The 2009 edition of Brick House is an all-Nicaraguan product from wrapper to filler.  The lush,well-balanced cigar hasn't lost any richness. 
The Brick House robusto is perfectly shaped, at five inches in length with a 54 ring gauge.  This oily, richly colored puro is ripe for the smoking.  The pre-light taste and aroma is earthy and has a hint of spice.  I cut the cap off with my guillotine cutter, and savored the pre-light scent once more.  I bite down on the toothy cap and inhale for the draw dry taste.  I can tell that robust earthiness is going to be the foundation for this cigar, but I have a feeling it will be very complex with hints of maple now coming though.  I chose to light the robusto with a match, as I have been favoring them lately on my smaller cigars.  

The first few puffs are nothing but a straight punch of earth with leathery notes.  The draw is beautiful with cool, flavorful smoke that lingers softly on the palate.  It's a little more mild than I first thought it would be, but overall the medium label fits really well.  

As I approach the middle of stogie, maple and cedar really come into play.  That maple note is absolutly fantastic!  This truly is an unique cigar, with a very orginal flavorful profile.  Did they really get all of these tobaccos from the same country?  Makes you really think about all of the companies that spend so much time with blending multi-country cigars.     

This baby burns incredibly even.  No small feat since my dog bumped me mid-light and I blew out the match.  I fumbled with lighting a second one as my intial light was noticiably off the mark on eveness.  The ash is a gorgeous light gray and holds its form very well.  I only ashed this cigar three times!

As the stogie nears the label, I begin to pick up some leather and nutty notes to compliment the earthy foundation that has made this cigar fantastic.  I peel off the label for safe keeping and continue to enjoy.  Is it just me, or is there anything better than a two hour robusto?  Most people may cry foul at the idea of making a short smoke last so long, but I disagree.  No matter the length/gauge I say it should take its natural course and be savored.  If it takes 4 hours to take down a Churchill, then do it.  Where does one need to be anyway?

I make this cigar last, and enjoy it all the way to the nub with no bitterness or heat.  The smoke remained cool and flavorful to the end.  Here is the kicker, the finish is enjoyable and has some ligering FRIUT!  Yeah, I couldn't believe it myself.

What a smoke!  I have spent time with a lot of members the cigar community lately, and I have heard a llot of them confess to not being fans of J.C.Newman/Fuente.  Yeah, scary, I know.  But, many have confessed to me that Brick House is a hit.  Well, I agree implicity. 

I have developed a rating system after some consideration of catagories.  I am doing a 0-10 range with zero being worst and ten representing perfection.

My Ratings:

Appearance - 9
Pre-light taste- 8
Construction - 10
Draw - 10
Burn - 10
Aroma - 8
Flavor - 10
Balance - 9
Finish- 10
Total Rating: 9.3

Enjoy guys and gals, and remember, there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best!