Monday, March 3, 2014

We've Moved

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As of Friday, February 28, 2014, the Tiki Bar Online has ceased publication of new material. The folks involved in creating this site have decided to continue talking about cigars, libations and other subjects at LeafEnthusiast.com, which begins production on Monday, March 3, 2014. 


All archived Tiki Bar reviews are in the process of being moved to the new site. Until that process is complete, they will still be able to be accessed on this site.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Closing Time

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For five-and-a-half years, I've been proud to echo the words of Mr. John Hiatt and say, "Thank God the Tiki Bar is open!" Like all good things, however, this must come to an end. These blog pages started not as a cigar journal, but as a way for a group of friends to stay in contact and discuss the topics we had pursued when we gathered to partake of cigars. That…didn't really happen. I ended up being the only one to post anything for a very long time. Eventually Keith came on board and has been a faithful contributor and partner in this venture, but as we tried to maintain some growth, we ran up against a couple obstacles.

First, the name. While "the Tiki Bar" was a great name for our smoking group, it didn't translate quite so well to the inter-webs. For whatever reason "Tiki Bar Online" just doesn't scream, "We do cigar reviews!!!!!" Go figure. We have made many friends in the blogging community and in the cigar industry. We have gained the respect of our peers and insiders for the quality of what we produce, but it hasn't really translated into more regular readers. Not to say we aren't happy with those readers who have been with us seemingly forever and communicate with us frequently. I'm talking to you, Corey! Thank you (and everyone else) for you support.

Second, the platform. Several years ago a blogging friend told me to switch from blogger.com to Wordpress. I checked it out and saw no reason…although I didn't have the whole story at the time. I didn't even realize that there was a difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org. Live and learn. Bottom line is…I should have listened to Barry. Changing over then would have been a chore involving a couple hundred blog entries. Now the challenge is over 1,800 Tiki Bar blog entries and more every day.

So moving tikibaronline.com from blogger to wordpress would have meant a massive amount of work to stay on the same domain with the same problems that would have brought. Instead, Keith and I chose to burn down the Tiki Bar.



Okay…not literally, as shown in the picture (an actual tiki bar in Key West burned down), but figuratively. And we aren't leaving. We are taking the figurative insurance money from the fire and starting a whole new venture.



Today will be the final blog post for Tiki Bar Online, although the domain will remain active for an uncertain amount of time while we move our archives to our new site.




Starting Monday, March 3, 2014, we want to welcome you to check out LeafEnthusiast.com, a site dedicated to reviews for cigar and pipe smokers. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cigar Review: LEAF by Oscar, Maduro

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Vitola: Toro
Size: 6” x 50 ring gauge
Price $9.50
Provided by Puros de Ballard

Background
Two weeks ago, I started my look at LEAF by Oscar with a review of the Connecticut. I liked it...a lot! Last week, I fired up the Corojo version for review and I came away liking it, too. Stranger things have happened than me really enjoying two Honduran-heavy blend cigars in such a short time frame, but I’m not at liberty right now to disclose what those stranger things were. Long story short...Oscar Valladares’ blends hit my palate better than many other very famous brands that utilize a lot of Honduran leaf.

LEAF by Oscar is distributed in the U.S. by Kevin Ballard of Puros de Ballard. As with the others in this series, the filler and binder of the cigar are Honduran, while the wrapper this time around is from Nicaragua (the Connecticut and Corojo versions both had wrappers hailing from Ecuador). There is only one size (Toro) being made, they retail for $9.50 apiece, and Kevin sent me this cigar for review purposes.

Prelight
This was the only one of the three where the outer wrapper leaf (not an actual “wrapper” in terms of cigars...more of a replacement for cellophane) did not match the actual wrapper leaf of the cigar. Maybe the cost of a Maduro leaf that’s close in color is too high? I wasn’t sure if it was actually the Maduro cigar until I got it unwrapped...then I saw the French Roast coffee bean color with its beautiful oily sheen and “Maduro” was confirmed. I gave the cigar a good sniff and got an aromatic mix of leather, earth and espresso beans. The foot had a stronger sweet earthiness and ripeness to it.

After clipping the head, I got a very good draw that had a cold flavor mix of cedar, raisins, anise, and earth.

Flavor
The initial flavors from the burning leaf were very earthy, with a strong coffee component and not as much sweetness as I would like. There was a bit of dried fruit in there, but not much. I detected a hit of black pepper on the nose, but nothing terribly strong. I found it medium-plus in body right from the start. As I puffed through the first third, I noticed a sourness that I didn’t care for, as well as a strong anise note. 

As I neared the end of the first third, the sourness abated a bit although the anise stayed pretty strong. I started getting a little more raisin sweetness in the mix and the coffee notes started coming through better again. During the second third, the sweetness increased and the overall flavor was of a strong and creamy coffee. That continued through the final third, along with a growing cayenne pepper.

Construction
Construction was as good again with the LEAF Maduro. The draw was excellent, and that’s the most important thing. The burn line was wavier than the others, probably due to the Maduro wrapper. The ash was quite a bit more crumbly so it was important to keep it near the ash tray when it built up any, so as to avoid making an ash of myself.

Value
I found the LEAF Maduro had a good value for the experience it delivered.

Conclusions
In the end I found the Maduro version of LEAF by Oscar was a solid cigar experience, even with a couple rough spots where the flavor was unbalanced. The cigar was full bodied but medium in strength and definitely rounded out my encounters with Oscar Valladares’ LEAF line quite well. It’s great to know that there are still Honduran blends out there I can get excited about. I would rank the three in the order I smoked them: Connecticut best, Corojo second, and Maduro third.

By-The-Numbers
Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 4/5
Value: 1/1

Total: 9/10

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cigar Review: La Flor Domincana L-GranĂº

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Vitola: Super Toro
Size: 6” x 64 ring gauge
Price $8.99
Purchased at Maxamar's

Background

I didn't hear a whole lot about this cigar before it was released.  I saw a couple people smoking it but it had slipped my mind before it showed up at my local shop.  Looking at the cigar in the 100 count cabinets it comes in you really don't get an idea of the size of this cigar.  When you get it out of the box and into your hand it makes its presence known.  This definitely isn't a size I normally go for but decided to give it a try.  This cigar was released at the tail end of 2013 and I can't really tell if it is going to be a limited release or not.  From what I can tell it may be a regular release.  The binder and filler are all Dominican tobaccos with an Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper that is from a higher priming than the normal Ligero line.  The cigar I smoked for review was either the 4th or 5th one of these I had.

Prelight

The wrapper on this sample was a slightly reddish brown in color with some oils to it.  There were some medium veins to the wrapper although it was fairly smooth to the touch.  When I gave it a squeeze I couldn't detect any soft spots and there was a slight amount of give.  Putting my nose to the wrapper I was able to detect some light leather aromas with a good amount of barnyard coming from the foot.  After clipping it and taking a cold draw on it I got notes of sweet cinnamon with a good draw.

Flavor

Like almost all of the LFD line this cigar starts off with a lot of spice on the tongue and retrohale.  The cigar started off with flavors of cinnamon, leather, some copper with a sweet finish.  Towards the end of the first third I started to get some green herbal spice, coffee and earth thrown in.  It started at the upper end of medium in regards to strength.  The flavors changed slightly to cinnamon, leather, coffee with a sweet finish.  The spice was still present and I started to get a slight nicotine hit from it by the end of the second third.  The final third saw some sweet green herbal notes come through but I still was able to get tastes of cinnamon, coffee, leather with a sweet finish from it.  It definitely moved into the full strength range as I finished it off as I was getting a pretty strong nicotine hit from it



Construction
The draw was pretty much perfect the entire way though.  I did have some burn problems.  I don't know if they were related to the breeze that was blowing while I was smoking this cigar or something wrong wit this one.  I don't remember having burn issues with the previous ones I smoked.

Value
This huge of a cigar for $9 is a pretty good value.  

Conclusions

I definitely enjoyed this cigar.  I just wish it wasn't so huge.  I think if it was 56 ring gauge or smaller I'd enjoy it more.  I do think that if you like LFDs cigars you should give it a try even thought it is large.  I also think that with the higher priming wrapper it will age a lot better than the other natural cigars.  I will caution those that aren't into strong cigars I'd give this one a pass as I could feel the nicotine hit from it by the time I was done.     

By-The-Numbers
Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 1.5/2
Flavor: 4/5
Value: 1/1

Total: 8.5/10

Cigar Review: Casa Miranda, Chapter 2, by Miami Cigar & Company

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Vitola: Toro
Size: 5.5” x 54 ring gauge
MSRP $7.60
Provided by Miami Cigar & Company


Background
In 2011, Miami Cigar & Company teamed up with El Titan de Bronze (then helmed by Willy Herrera) to produce Chapter One of the Casa Miranda story. Casa Miranda is named for MCC’s founder, Nestor Miranda, whose name is also found on the Nestor Miranda Collection of cigars. I have tried several Chapter Ones and, while they are a solid smoke, I never found them all that enjoyable. Just not my preferred flavor profile. I had hopes that that would change when I heard last year about Chapter Two. From the company’s website:

Miami, FL June 6th, 2013 – Everybody loves a good sequel, and the Casa Miranda Chapter 2 is set to debut at IPCPR which is being held this year in Las Vegas, NV.
The follow up to the original which was made in Miami at the famed El Titan de Bronze, will be made at My Father Cigars S.A in Esteli, Nicaragua.

According to Jason Wood; VP of Miami Cigar & Company, “Just like any great novel, our story continues to gain momentum with the release of Chapter 2 at this years’ IPCPR. I look forward to our consumer’s feedback on this medium bodied beauty!”

The tobacco used for this new chapter is a dark Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper with filler from Brazil, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

It is available in the following sizes:
  • Robusto (4.5 x 50) $6.35 MSRP
  • Corona Gorda (6 x 46) $7.00 MSRP
  • Toro (5.5 x 54) $ 7.60 MSRP
  • Gran Toro (6 x 60) $8.00 MSRP

Don't you hate it when movies get delayed...especially a long-anticipated sequel (I'm looking at you, Ghostbusters 3!). Seems like that happened here. While unveiled in July at the annual trade show, I had not seen any of the actual cigars until a pair showed up in my mailbox a couple weeks ago. The details about what tobaccos make up this cigar are in the quoted part above. This review is based on my second sample received from MCC.

Prelight
Chapter Two seems to be more colorful than Chapter One was. Starting with the band, One was browns, golds, and yellows with white letter on “Casa Miranda.” Two has deeper golds, with a touch of orange, the same browns as before, but then touches of deep red, specifically in the lettering that was white before. It’s a good look on the textured, high-end paper. The wrapper leaf on One was medium brown, while the Two has a rich, almost dark chocolate brown appearance, with lots of oils and couple large veins. Giving the wrapper a sniff, I picked up notes of wood and leather; the foot was rich, sweet and earthy. The prelight draw was very good; the cold flavor was earthy and a touch syrupy sweet.

Flavor
I fired up the Chapter Two and quickly got a burst of cedar flavor, along with earth and some pepper spice on both the palate and nose. Paying a little closer attention on subsequent puffs, I picked up a creamy coffee note along with a touch of sweetness. The whole thing was wrapped up in thick, oily smoke that was medium-plus in body. All-in-all, a very good way to start off the proceedings.

In the second third, I noted a little less pepper spice and creamy texture to the smoke, with a bit more cedar and earth. As I continued, I picked up a semi-sweet chocolate on the finish. In the last third, the pepper came back a little, mixing well with the sweetness. The cedar diminished some, helping to better balance the whole.

Construction
Typical of My Father standards, the construction was great. I had a great draw, solid ash and even-enough burn line.

Value
I remember the Chapter One as being a touch expensive...not overly so, just moreso than most other Miami Cigar sticks. Being made in Nicaragua, this was less pricey and since I like the flavor more, I would call it a much better value.

Conclusions
The Casa Miranda Chapter Two is, in my opinion, a sequel that improves on the original. The flavor was just flat-out better for my palate and the price was easier on the wallet. What I want to try now is how this blend plays out in the Corona Gorda size.

By-The-Numbers
Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 4/5
Value: 1/1

Total: 9/10

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cigar Review: Partagas Black Magnifico

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Cigar: Partagas Black Magnifico 
Size: 6x54 
Wrappers: Connecticut Medio Tiempo 
Binders: Dominican 
Filler: Dominican and Nicaraguan 
Price: $8.64 at my local B&M; $6.99 per stick at Famous Smoke

For my next couple reviews, I wanted to examine a few of the brands that I first started with as a cigar smoker. Looking back at these initial cigar choices, I'm trying to remember how I reacted to the strength of the cigars the first few times smoking them because the majority of them are full bodied in strength. It could have been the fact that I was thirty to forty pounds heavier then or maybe I just didn't know any better... who knows? The next few reviews (this one included) would not be something that I novice cigar smoker starts with.
Giving the Partagas Black (Magnifico vitola) the customary prelight examination, I fould no issues with its oily, Connecticut Medio Tiempo wrapper nor in the packing of the cigar. I detected strong woody notes prelight but nothing else stood out to me. With a punch and wooden match, I took my first few draws and were met with flavors of wood and pepper right away. The pepper complemented the wood flavors well without overpowering but soon died down after ten minutes or so. Those wood flavors that started strong at the beginning of the cigar faded at the halfway point and were replaced with notes of leather and mocha. While the mocha flavors were only temporary, the leather notes stay until the end of the cigar, or just under two hours smoking time (1:54).

Besides minor burn irregularities with the cigar (which corrected themselves as time went on), I didn't have any issues with the Partagas Black. The draw was even (not too open or tight), the strength was consistent from beginning to end without wild jumps one way other another and it stayed lit.
To recap the Partagas Black Magnifico:
  • This is a full bodied cigar with complementary flavor points. It's not overly complex but enjoyable to those who prefer a stronger cigar.
  • While $8.64 is high for this cigar here in IL, buying it for $6.99 per stick (or less when in packs of five or box of 20) is in my opinion a much better option.
  • I enjoyed this cigar again after a number of years of not smoking one but like David's opinion on Rocky Patel cigars, the Partagas Black just doesn't do enough for me to separate itself from similar-priced cigars of the same strength. As that is, it will likely be awhile before I purchase one to smoke again.
As always, thank you very much for reading and I look forward to the next time I can share my thoughts with you.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cigar Review: Emilio AF Suave

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Vitola: Toro
Size 6” x 50 ring gauge
Price: ~ $7.50


It figures that I'd be the one who would find a cigar that is late to the party.  I probably should have reviewed this sometime in the last year and a half after it was first introduced, but I don't always like to show up when the party kicks off.  I've been called "fashionably late" more times than I probably care to count, and this cigar is right there with me. And since Webster's definition of "suave" is : "behaving in a relaxed, confident, and pleasant way in social situations", it might just be fitting.  Let's see how relaxed and confident this thing really is.

Emilio head Gary Griffith decided to use an Ecuardorian Connecticut shade wrapper for this project, while using Nicaraguan binders and fillers.  The band is in typical Emilio; simple and without too much fanfare.  The toffee wrapper had small veins and no visible defects safe for a minor tear that I caused when removing the cello wrapper.  Initial notes were of cedar and a bit of hay.  After clipping, I felt that the cold draw was so airy.  It wasn't just easy, it almost felt like there was hardly any filler.  It was that airy.  So I had my reservations about how this would smoke, but on I must continue.  And on I did.



Torching the foot and into the first bit and I was greeted with more of the cedar that I noted in the pre-light, followed by a bit of a nutty taste.  I thought this actually would have been a bit sweeter than it was, but it did have a hint of a Werther's Original?  Is that possible?   Just a hint.  Surrounded by lots of smoke.  Yeah, a little disc of goodness.  


Now into the mid-section and very little changes.  Still woody and nutty.  Still a bit sweet.  Toss some hay and a bit of cream into the mix, but there's not much of an evolution here; just enough to make it a more complex cigar than previously perceived.  


Heading into the home stretch, the profile changed.  The creamy and sweet flavors from earlier backed away with pepper and bitter chocolate taking their place.  Smoke was ever present and never did it go out.  The burn at times was uneven but not for long and not something about which to be concerned.


I believe that the Emilio AF Suave is great for beginners, for those who enjoy a smoke with their morning coffee, or for those who just want something a bit light like on a hot Summer afternoon.  It is a great mild/medium body cigar with a decent level of complexity that doesn't become overbearing.  The stick was  loose on the draw but I think for this stick it worked, and it worked better than I thought it would. Leave it to Gary to tweak and use these little nuances to make a tasty treat.  For the price, I think it's about where it needs to be, so I think it's a pretty good smoke at a good value. 


Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 1.5/2
Flavor: 3.5/5
Value: 1/1
Total: 8/10