Por Larranaga Picadores

It’s been a while since I last updated the blog. Unfortunately I haven’t got many new tasting notes to write up – but did just find these jotted down on my iPad. So, without further ado, a quickfire review…

Very light aroma pre-light. Nice to the touch – a little more give than my preference, but acceptable. Neatly packed foot and applied cap. Good draw. Easy light with matches (indoors), fairly even early burn.
Good smoke production from the early draws. Slight bitterness, roasted cashews and almonds at the start – saltiness. Savoury stick. Saltiness dissipates  Burn goes a little one sided.

Ash was a bit segmented – broke off unevenly, not especially solid. Dark grey and quite flaky.

Towards the end a little bit of tar build up.

Diplomaticos No1 (2001)

(Size: 6 1/2″ x 42  —  Time: 1hr 20mins)

Box Code: Exact code unknown (Year: 2001)

It’s been quite some time since my last review, for which I offer my sincere apologies.  Over the last couple of years it seems to have become a bit of a tradition for me to open my review with that sort of statement.  This review is of the Diplomaticos No1 – a wonderful Lonsdale.  My love for this brand is not unknown (as anyone who’s read my thoughts on the Dippy No2, and its demise, can attest). My love for the Lonsdale size is also not entirely unknown.  This should be a winning combination then, one would assume.  Especially when the cigar being reviewed has around 14 years of age on it.

IMG_1504This particular stick had been sitting in my humidor for around a year, since the 2014 UKCF get together at No1 St James, a very glossy cigar store run by Robert Emery – a true gent, excellent host, and incredibly knowledgable man.  I was actually frantically dashing around London this day – making my way in from Cirencester for a day of meetings and socialising.  Sadly I had to miss much of the evening’s festivities, though I did feel rather James Bond-ish on my return given that the reason for my slipping out was for drinks at No11 Downing Street.  Anyway, enough of my social climbing, onto the review…

Appearance /15

This cigar was not the prettiest I have ever seen.  The wrapper was a very light Colorado Claro, almost Claro – milky brown, fairly typical of the Diplomaticos line.  There were a few obvious veins, and a pretty stand-out seam.  The cap was, however, nicely and accurately applied.  In the hand it was nicely firm to the touch.  11


Smoking Characteristics /25

The pre-light aroma of the Diplomaticos No1 was predominantly ‘farmyard’ with a touch of mustiness (think grandma’s wardrobe) and a hint of something reminiscent of honeyed cashews.  The pre-light draw was excellent, offering an ideal amount of resistance.   The light was easy and even – despite a slight lighter mishap.  Smoke production was more than adequate from the get-go and the early burn was crisp and even.  This continued throughout – I don’t recall any touch-ups being required except at the very death.  The ash was grey and slightly mottled, but made up of concentric circles so well aligned that an architect would have been pleased had he designed them.  As well as great consistency, the ash was also very solid, holding until tapped off in just a couple of solid lumps.  With good smoke production, even burn, excellent draw, and solid ash it’s difficult to find much to fault.  Indeed, aside from a minor correction in the last inch, and a relight (purely to enable nubbing the stick) it was flawless.  24

IMG_1502Flavour /25

The No1‘s dry draw was fairly subdued – with hints of honey and straw, as the pre-light aroma might have suggested.  The first quarter of an inch after lighting offered a similar profile, however, as we neared the end of the first third the cigar jumped into life.  Fourteen years had not dulled it into boredom!  The mouthfeel was full, flavour medium, and strength was pushing the top end of medium.  The flavour was becoming a little ‘meatier’ – something I’ve noticed before with Diplomaticos.  This was just a slight metallic note, partnered with good herbaceous flavours (oregano and sage).  Pork roast anyone?  Moving through the middle third the flavour profile developed towards something woodier.  The straw flavour returned, this time propped up by some good cedar and warming, woody spices.  As the cigar started towards its finale things got meatier again.  Leather and anise joined the party – think of a nice Rioja Reserva.   The anise notes quickly give way to a greater depth of cedar-wood and pepper; gradually, as the cigar nears the nub, these two flavours power to the forefront..  22

Overall Impression /35

What a cigar to reignite the review section of the blog!  Fourteen years of development had done nothing to dull the body of this example of the Diplomaticos No1.  It had allowed the flavours to integrate nicely, providing a nice journey through the length of the stick.  The construction was about as good as you’re going to get out of Cuba, which combined with the flavours and good smoke production made for a thoroughly enjoyable smoke.  33

Grand total… 90/100


The ‘Humour-dor’ Returns – 6th November

I’m pleased to announce that we’re hosting the third ‘Humour-dor’ at James J Fox on the 6th November.


I’m not the biggest fan of using the blog to advertise things, but it would be great to meet some of the readers. As such, if you’re in London, or within striking distance, and like the idea of an evening of cigars, comedy, and whisky then please pop along!

The evening’s cigar will be a Juan Lopez No2 – an excellent cigar which often flies under the radar. I think it’s a wonderful cigar, and gave it a score of 93 when I reviewed it on the blog. You can check out my review of it here.

We’ll have three Scotches, a Bourbon, and a Japanese whiskey available for tasting on the evening too. All, we think, excellent choices which are a little bit different – perhaps you’ll find a new favourite?

There are also canapés, soft drinks, and wine available. There really are few evening’s in London quite as much fun.

You can buy tickets online: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/706915
(If tickets are still left on the day, they will also be available on the door for £45)

Flyer: Humour-dor Nov 14

I fully expect the evening to be a huge success (we’ve already sold plenty of tickets, mostly to returning guests), and the November line-up of Neil McFarlane and Matt Green is excellent! The first Humour-dor was an excellent evening which I took the time to write up some thoughts about. You can find those thoughts, and some photos, here.

Hoyo de Monterrey Short Hoyo Pirámide (2011 LE)

(Size: 5 3/8″ x 46  —  Time: 1hr 30mins)

Well, it has certainly been a while!  My last cigar review was just before Christmas, and as I write this one summer is finally getting into the swing of things here in the UK!  About time too!

I spent an excellent afternoon whilst smoking this lovely looking 2011 Limited Edition enjoying the company of a fellow former Royal Navy officer.  (The wonders that a tie can do to spark up a conversation!)  In the morning I’d been at the Savoy having a look at their facilities and logistics ahead of a charity gala I am organising at the hotel next year.  Given how well the meeting went, I thought I would have something a little special during my usual trip to one of London’s many fine tobacconists.  This one caught my eye.  The Hoyo de Monterrey Short Hoyo Pirámide, made from tobacco that had been aged for at least two years before rolling.  Here are my thoughts…


Appearance /15

This cigar had a lovely dark chocolate wrapper, with slightly dark patches where the oils of the aged tobacco had stained.  It was a little veiny, with a couple of knobbly bits, but the seam and cap were well finished.  It was firm to the touch, with a nicely packed foot.  Overall, the cigar had a slightly rustic look to it – from the dark textured wrapper, to the slightly tapered foot.  13

IMG_0012Smoking Characteristics /25

The pre-light aroma of the Short Hoyo Pirámide was farmyard with hints of light chocolate.  The pre-light draw was almost perfect – firm, but with just the right amount of give.  The light was easy and quick – two matches and it was set nicely.  Throughout the length of the cigar the burn remained crisp – it was occasionally a little wavy, but always remained fairly level.  The ash was a relatively light grey, with little mottling; it was fairly solid, coming off in distinct lumps, but not the most solid.  Smoke production was generally good, though occasionally a little thinner than one would ideally want.  There was little to fault this cigar for on the construction front – a touch more smoke and a slightly stronger ash would be my primary requests.  23

IMG_0013Flavour /25

The dry draw was right in line with the farmyard pre-light aroma: sweet hay being predominant.  There were under-notes of honey (giving the sweetness) and even a touch of menthol.  The first draw upon lighting was strong – very bitter chocolate.  This quickly tempered and by the third draw was balanced with a touch of liquorice.  After a short while, the bitterness dropped off and (whilst still present) given way to a more rounded dark chocolate/cocoa.  At this stage, it was vaguely reminiscent of a high quality dark chocolate with chilli – some liquorice still propped up the flavours from the background, now with menthol notes joining in too.  As the cigar progressed further, towards the final third, the bitter cocoa notes died away completely, along with the liquorice and menthol, giving way to a lovely milky profile, with a pleasant nuttiness.  This is how it remained, perhaps being joined by a toasted woodiness at the nub.  22

Overall Impression /35

I would say that the HdM Hoyo Short Pirámide is a good cigar.  It starts strongly and shows some interesting progression – though I would have liked to have seen another flavour phase and a touch more complexity from an Limited Edition.  The cigar looks good, with a ‘quality rusticity’ which is pleasing to behold.  Construction is good too, with only a few very minor quibbles.  Would I buy more of these?  Without a doubt if the occasion was right.  Would I buy a box?  I’m not so sure.  Either way, if you haven’t tried one I’d heartily recommend it – especially if you’re looking for something medium bodied with a little bite.  33

Grand total… 91/100

Wine: Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto 2010

Country: Portugal
Region: Beiras (though specifically, if not labelled as such, Bairrada)
Grape & ABV: Baga / 13%
Vintage: 2010
Producer: Luis Pato

As I embark on the Cigar Monologues’ first wine review I note, strangely, that I am probably more qualified to review wines than I am cigars…  I work in the industry (owning a ‘hobby’ wine importing company) and have done numerous poncy wine courses.

This is a wine which I recently spotted this in Decanter magazine’s feature on the Bairrada region of Portugal.  Bairrada was historically very important to Portugal’s wine industry.  As a result of this importance, the region was home to Portugal’s first school of viticulture (from 1887).  The producer of this wine, Luis Pato, seemed to be a passionate character, so I had to pick up a bottle – hoping it had as much character as the man who made it.  I picked it up from Corks Out in Chester – which is a delightful little shop, part of a small chain in the areas – when I was visiting the Turmeus tobacconist for a sampling session with Dan (CM‘s occasional guest blogger).

This wine is made from the Baga grape, which is the signature grape of the region.  Whilst potentially high-yielding, it has issues.

Pato Vinhas Velhas 2010

Wines made using the Baga grape can be aggressively tannic as a result of both the grape’s properties and the traditional wine making techniques of the region.  The grape’s have a high skin to pulp ratio due to their size, and ripen very late.  Given the Bairrada region’s climate this can lead to reduced sugar development and relatively acidic wines.  To help counter the cultivar’s vigorous nature, Pato prunes the vines twice to help focus the plant on filling the grapes harvested for the still wine.  This helps reduce acidity and, consequentially, astringency.  The traditional wine making technique of the region is rather rustic, with crushing and fermentation taking place including the stems.  Luis Pato’s techniques are more refined, however, removing stems and treating the product with great care.  As a result he has made a wonderful wine here – there are tannins there, giving excellent structure, but they’re quite soft (not aggressive at all).

Plum-red colour.  Light around the edges – pink, with just a slight brownish hue.

This wine had a lovely, rounded, aroma: cedar and tobacco with a little red-berry fruit and warming cinnamon.  There was even a hint of marzipan.

Excellent – soft and fruity (given the soft but firm tannins it’s almost like a Pinot Noir on steroids). Feint chocolatey and tobacco notes.

18/20 – An excellent wine!  If you get a chance to try a glass (or a bottle) do not turn down the opportunity.  This is something a little different, combining some of the best characteristics found in other regions.  The soft fruitiness of a Burgundy, with the body of a Bordeaux, and the warmth of a Cotes du Rhone.  Very alluring – and every bit as characterful as Luis Pato himself.

Cost: £19.95
Merchant: Corks Out (Chester)

H.Upmann Half Corona

(Size: 3 1/2″ x 44  —  Time: 40mins)

The H.Upmann Half Corona is a cigar I have been smoking fairly regularly over the last couple of years. It was a much anticipated new vitola from Habanos SA in 2011 – arguably developed as a response to the increasingly stringent smoking laws in many countries around the world.  These have led to a need for flavourful, quality, cigars which could be enjoyed in a short timeframe, thereby avoiding frostbite. It has been well marketed, and I particularly like the stylish tins of five which are occasionally available.  Unfortunately the availability of the tins is largely dependent upon whether the Cubans have been able to get their hands on any metal… I do appear to have set up a suitable opportunity to reflect on the geo-politics of the region, but that’s probably best saved for another day.

H Upmann Half Corona

I should say upfront that I am a fan of this cigar, and have refined my tasting notes (from 2012) based on my experience smoking a couple of boxes of these during the intervening period.  My notes had gone somewhat AWOL over the last six months or so…  However, now that they are found, you can look forward to my usual flurry of activity over Christmas as I catch up with many unpublished reviews.

Appearance /15

The H.Upmann Half Corona looks like a good little package from the off. A nice chocolatey wrapper encases the filler, showing only a few knobbly bits and very few, small veins. They are nicely firm to the touch, with just a little give, and a gorgeous, neatly packed foot.  13

Smoking Characteristics /25

H Upmann Half Corona 2

The pre-light draw was very good – a touch firm, but still a pretty effortless draw.  The cigar lit quickly and evenly without needing any early attention. The burn wasn’t razor sharp, and there were a couple of touch ups needed to keep it level as the cigar progressed, but there was nothing which anyone would be bothered by (I’m just a bit prissy when it comes to an even burn). The ash was fairly dark and quite flaky – it held reasonably well, but I’d be lying if I said it inspired confidence… Smoke production was good throughout – with good density and a pleasant aroma.  22

Flavour /25

The pre-light draw has a touch of grass on it, but immediately with lighting this gives was to a lovely dry cedar-wood profile.  Early flavours maintain the slight tang of cedar, with a touch of pepperiness coming to the party.  What I would consider to be the true character of the H.Upmann Half Corona soon starts to develop, with a rounder, creamier profile coming to the fore.  Creaminess with hints of fennel soon gives way to something far more appealing…  Honey comes forward to mix with the cream for a delicious period around the one-third mark.  The honey soon gives way to a slight grassiness, which together with the rich cream is redolent of asparagus with hollandaise sauce!  Never a bad thing.  As the cigar builds towards the end the greener flavours give way to a touch more pepper.  The cream remains, but more subdued, and a lovely maltiness evolves.  22

Overall Impression /35

The notes I took whilst reviewing this H.Upmann Half Corona are a very good reflection on what I have found the vast majority to smoke like.  These are lovely little sticks which are surprisingly consistent from one cigar to the next for a smaller vitola.  The construction is generally good, and the flavours are pleasant and relatively complex for such a short smoke.  It is a smoke which pleases both the experienced and novice palates – I have introduced a number of curious friends to cigars with this cigar, and unanimously they have liked it as much as I have.  It’s always going to be difficult for a such a short smoke to provide enough to push it past the 90 mark, but this is one cigar which should be in everyone’s humidor.  33

Grand total… 90/100

PS. If you’re reading this near when I published it, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – I hope both bring you many fine cigars and good times.

Humour-dor, Tuesday 14th May

Well, the weather yet again causes a major case of anonymity for the Cigar Monologues!  Thankfully though, whilst the weather has prevented me from sampling too many cigars for review, I have been quite busy with another venture of my own…

I run a small entertainment company – as a ‘professional hobby’ – which organises comedy nights and corporate entertainment.  (For those of a curious nature, please check out the company’s website: www.thecomedycoalition.co.uk ). A couple of months back I had the idea of combining my two passions of cigars and live stand-up.  I dropped the good people at JJ Fox a line, and the ‘Humour-dor’ was conceived! The vision was comedy as it used to be – viewed through a thick fug of smoke.  The night would be a typical cigar party… Everything included! A Hoyo de Monterrey Churchill cigar, as much aged Scotch as you could handle (served by a beautiful lady on the bar), some canapés to keep you going, and two brilliant comedians!

The night was a success! Attendance was a little low, but it was a great experience, and thankfully those in attendance had a good time – which was the whole point of the evening! As ever happens in these situations, the night continued long after we’d left JJ Fox, and after a few drinks and more cigars at the Stafford Hotel, an stumble through Soho and Covent Garden (via another bar and a casino), it was time for a late arrival at the hotel… Thankfully, one with a 24-hour bar… Cue my good friend (and occasional guest on CM), Mr Ward, and his generosity with the bar’s Cognac!

I’ve included a few photos for those who weren’t able to make it, and I hope that if you’re in London or nearby, you’ll keep an eye out for details of the next Humour-dor event in a few months’ time. (If you definitely want to know the details as soon as they are released, drop me a message via the Comedy Coalition website, or the Cigar Monologues Facebook page.

For the record, the whiskies on the night were: BenRiach 16yo, Clynelish ‘Distiller’s Edition’, Dalmore ‘Tweed Dram’, Fettercairn ‘Fior’ (Ltd Edn), and Kilchoman ‘Machir Bay’.

Happy smoking, and I’ll be back with a new review within a few days.

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