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

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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

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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…

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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

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.

Bolivar Britanicas (2012 UK RE)

(Size: 5 3/8″ x 48  —  Time: 1hr 30mins)

Box Code: RUE DIC 11

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The Bolivar Britanicas was one of three UK Regional Edition cigars released in 2012 (the others being the Punch Medalla de Oro and Ramon Allones Petit Belicoso); though it was initially slated for a 2011 release, along with the aforementioned Punch. As it was, the much delayed 2010 UK RE, the La Flor de Cano Short Robusto was the only RE actually released in the UK during 2011.  Originally planned to be a 46RG cigar, it ended up as a 48RG, which feels good in the hands, and with its perfecto shape it looks a treat too.  The box harked back to the days of old, with a large seal displaying Simón Bolivar wrapped around the side.  Meanwhile, in a modernising twist, the Britanicas were the first UK RE to sport the new regional band, ‘Gran Bretaña’, replacing the previous ‘Reino Unido’.

I initially bought a box of Bolivar Britanicas when they were released around a year ago (April 2012).  There seemed to be quite a bit of hype around that time, and I was caught up in it when I tried my first one from the box.  As a result, I remember feeling it was a good cigar, but that it wasn’t quite all it had been cracked up to be. However, when I tried more, I came to conclude that I had probably over-reacted to the hype – these were, indeed, very good cigars.  So, how did this example fare?

IMG_0971Appearance /15

The cigar was very firm to the touch, offering little give when squeezed.  The shape looks amazing – why can’t we have more perfectos? The wrapper was a lovely mid-chocolate wrapper – a couple of shades darker than is traditional on a Bolivar.  This cigar had very few veins (none of any note), a very neat seam, and a well applied cap.  As with most Britanicas I have seen, this is a gorgeous stick.  14

Smoking Characteristics /25

The pre-light draw was excellent – perfect resistance with just a few millimetres clipped off the head.  The cigar lit incredibly easily – another reason I love perfectos – and the early burn was nice and even.  The cigar’s girth and shape ensures it feels excellent in the mouth, and the thick, voluminous smoke produced was delightful.  The cigar went out after about five minutes – which took me rather by surprise as I’d been paying it a lot of attention.  This one mishap aside (I actually wrote “pathetic” in my notes), the cigar burnt beautifully, and produced good smoke throughout.  23

Flavour /25

Upon lighting, this Britanicas provided meaty flavours – savoury and gamey, with just a slight mustiness.  This was quite a surprise given the straw and sweet cherries which had made up the pre-light flavours.  Soon the flavours developed, with slightly more mustiness coming through – altering towards a peppery creaminess – with the gamey flavours becoming richer, but more subdued.  Towards half-way, the cigar became a true Bolivar, with some warm spices adding a nice note as the peppery creaminess intensified.  Into the second half, as the cigar approached the final third, these flavours started to dissipate, whilst a tannic, yet smooth, profile took their place.  Hints of oaked Cabernet Sauvignon with leathery notes became predominant, but not especially strong. Just as the cigar made its way into the final ten minutes, the wine faded away and was replaced with the spicey, creamy, pepperiness of the middle.  Slightly tannic notes of leather remained however, making for a fairly complex, although slightly muddled finish.  22

Overall Impression /35

Whilst this probably wasn’t the best Bolivar Britanicas I’ve had since their release, it was still a damn good cigar – they are amazing on their day.  The flavour developed as the cigar progressed. It had enough Bolivar flavour traits to let you know that you were smoking a cigar from the top Cuban marque, but with a couple of twists – to my mind, a good thing for a special edition.  As these have aged, they have dropped to probably just above medium in strength, so not quite the powerhouse of standard release Bolivars.  Combined with an attractive look, special feel, and generally very good construction, this is definitely a cigar which needs to be sampled, even by those who might normally be put off by the traditional strength of Bolivar cigars.  32

Grand total… 91/100 (I have smoked these rating up to a 93 – so definitely worth a try).

Montecristo No.2

(Size: 6 1/8″ x 52  —  Time: 1hr 40mins)

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Sometime ago, I believe Thatcher and Reagan were both in power at the time, one of the true BOTL in this world was kind enough to gift me a Montecristo No.2.  It transpired on the UK Cigar Forums that I had not smoked this legendary cigar, and Simon ‘Bolivar’ decided to right a wrong. So, this review is for Simon, who was interested in my thoughts.

So, I’ve finally got around to smoking it, and I have to admit that it began a bit of a cigar binge for me.  Having gone months without a Cuban (or indeed a non-Cuban), I hurled myself headlong into a weekend of hedonism and herfing.  The Scotch flowed without hinderance, and the cigars followed one another.  Tony Bennett playing in the background as I enjoyed a couple of wonderful evenings of reclusion and relaxation.  This is the one which kick-started my 2013 smoking year…

IMG_0964Appearance /15

This cigar had a chocolatey, fairly dark, oily wrapper. The oiliness was not towards the top end, however, and left the surface with a satin-like feel.  There was a noticeable seam along the cigar, and a couple of fairly solid veins.  It was firm to the touch – almost hard, but not solid (this was likely of my own doing, as my humidity has dropped a bit low due to the long winter and central heating).  The foot was nicely packed, with reasonable give, all things considered.  13

Smoking Characteristics /25

The pre-light aroma of the Monte No.2 was slightly chocolatey, with a slightly strawy note – not at all unpleasant.  The cigar lit with a small degree of difficulty – taking longer than I’d anticipated, and taking a while to get onto the straight and narrow.  Unfortunately, this was a sign of things to come…  The early burn was weak and uneven, not instilling any confidence.  After a few touch-ups during the first ten minutes the cigar settled down and burnt more evenly.  However, around the 40 minute mark the cigar went out, and again around the 80 minute mark, shortly after I’d had to remove part of the wrapper.  The ash was a little flakey, but held quite well.  The pre-light draw was excellent, offering and ideal amount of resistance – this was true throughout, and inspite of burn issues, the cigar produced an adequate amount of smoke.  18

Flavour /25

The dry draw provided a herbal flavour, with very subtly menthol notes.  After lighting, the early draws were woody, with lots of cherry notes and hints of chocolate.  Soon after lighting the woodiness became more defined – with vaguely peppery cedar becoming quite noticeable.  The slightly tart, fruity, notes of the cherry remained, but moved towards the background, along with hints of vanilla, cocoa and coffee.  Gradually the flavours changed towards more grassy notes – with the slightly metallic feel that you often get with Montecristo cigars.  The grassiness was soon accompanied by more woody flavours – predominantly an oak note, which was akin to oak chips which had been soaked in a sweet cider vinegar.  As the cigar entered the final third, it became deeper, with a leathery woodiness.  There developed some more notes which were reminiscent of the tannic notes from a slightly under-aged Claret.  The strength ramped up in the final five minutes, though there were never any tarry notes.  23

IMG_0965Overall Impression /35

The Montecristo No.2 turned out to be a pleasant surprised for me.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the Monte marque, with only the Petit Edmundo and Sublimes (LE) really doing anything for me.  This was an enjoyable smoke, with good progression through the stick – however, the complexity of the cigar seemed to come and go in spurts, and the depth really only developed in the final third.  When I consider my overall impression, I have to recognise that it was an incredibly annoying cigar at times, with regular touch-ups and relighting being required – I also note that its draw was excellent, and I have to account for the reduced humidity that the cigar has been stored at over recent months.  As such, I’m going with my gut, and calling this a good one.  Thanks again, Simon, you’ve introduced me to a classic, and I’ll definitely be having more.  33

Grand total… 87/100 (with an expectation to be a couple of percentage points higher)

Guest Review: Partagas Lusitanias (1999)

Many of you may well remember that some time ago (but not all that many posts ago) my good friend, Dan Ward, wrote a guest piece for the Cigar Monologues.  I am delighted to publish a second guest review from this fine BOTL, and what a cigar he chose to review.  A Partagas Lusitanias aged for 14 years by the very good people at Hunters & Frankau.  Thank you to Dan for his contribution – and I’m always keen for guest entries on the blog, so if you fancy writing one, don’t hesitate to get in touch (via comments, Twitter or Facebook). 

Enjoy…

The Guest Blogger

Partagas Lusitanias (1999)

(Size: 7 5/8″ x 49)

The Partagas Lusitanias is an old friend, as indeed is the entire Partagas lineup.  Over the years I have smoked many Lusitanias and have come to regard them as my all time favourite cigar (with the Serie P No.2 a very close second).  Up until now I had not smoked a Lusi with more than five years of age on it, so this one with 14 years on should be quite something.

To start with, the construction was absolutely brilliant.  Firm along the length of the cigar, with an exceptionally well executed cap and a foot that was something to behold!  There was a beautiful oily sheen along the length of the wrapper.  In my excitement, I neglected to get more pictures of this cigar, although I daresay that my iPhone’s camera would not have done it justice.  When cutting a cigar I prefer to take as little off as possible, such that only a small piece of wrapper is removed and the filler tobacco is left intact.  Pre-light draw was exactly what one would expect from a cigar of this size: firm enough to let you know that you have a sizeable cigar, but loose enough that you don’t have to work at it.

Pre-light flavours were very creamy, with hints of cocoa abound.

Upon lighting the predominant flavour was that of fairly mild espresso.  Throughout this cigar espresso underpins everything, but seeing as I rather like espresso (I often drink 7 or 8 in a day) I found this very satisfying.  As the cigar progressed towards the end of the first third the mild espresso built into a strong espresso, perhaps even ristretto flavour, with a very pleasant creaminess underlying everything – maybe comparable to a latte made with 4 shots of espresso.

Partagas Lusitanias

Partagas Lusitanias

Into the second third the strong espresso flavours remained intact, transporting me away from the chilly Cigar Bothy at Edinburgh’s Hotel Du Vin to a warm summer’s evening overlooking Lake Como.  (I would recommend the Cigar Bothy as well worth a visit if you fancy a cigar in Edinburgh).  At this point it is worth noting that the burn of this cigar was exemplary, not needing a single touch up along its entire length.

Which brings me on to the last last third and more espresso!  Slowing subduing back to a milder espresso with a hint of sweetness to finish.  At no point was there any harshness or bitterness to be found anywhere.  Throughout a firm light grey ash was to be found.

Overall, this was a truly brilliant cigar. Highly enjoyable from start to finish and everything that you could ask for from a prominente vitola.  It’s certainly not cheap, at £28.99, but considering that this is a few pounds less than a Cohiba Siglo VI, and a more enjoyable smoke, it offers a lot of value for money.

Using my rating system 9.5/10 which translates into 95/100 using Simons usual rating system.  It really is that good.  (Not sure it’s quite a straight conversion, but get the point. – Ed.)

—  DW  —

Thank you again Dan.  If anyone would like to follow Dan on Twitter then check out @gtrcar5.  (Don’t forget you can follow @cigarmonologues too!)

Bolivar Coronas Extra

bolivar(Size: 5 5/8″ x 44 — Time: 1hr 5mins)

Habanos SA, the Cuban state-enterprise responsible for the production and distribution of cigars from that fabled island, have been smoking something over the last few years.  Sadly, I don’t think that what they’ve been smoking comes from their own range of fine, tobacco filled, options…  I’ve already lamented the loss of classic cigars from the Cuban line-up, deleted from production by a faceless (and arguably moronic) bureaucrat.  Just a couple of cigars which have been lost to the smoking public are the Partagas Serie de Connaisseur No1 (along with many more slim and small cigars) and the Trinidad Robusto T.  Perhaps, to my mind, the greatest loss of all has been the cigar which I am reviewing here – the Bolivar Coronas Extra.  It was included on HSA’s 2012 deletions list, so they are still about.  Is it worth grabbing a couple of boxes before they’re all gone?  Read on to find out… (Apologies for the lack of pictures, this is a review from the ‘archive’ which is my old notebook, so there are no pretty photos to go with it).

Appearance /15

This Bolivar Coronas Extra was just a little hard to the touch – not the nice firm springiness one hopes for.  It wasn’t rock hard, but perhaps just a tad under-humidified.  The wrapper was a lovely milk chocolate colour with just a couple of small veins.  All in all, good looking cigar, but perhaps a slight suggestion that it was well packed. 13

Smoking Characteristics /25

Pre-light the draw was reasonable, if a little firm.  The cigar lit quite easily, and the burn was relatively even from the off.  As the cigar progressed the draw opened up a touch, making it more or less ideal.  The burn remained generally pretty good throughout the stick, though a couple of little touch-ups were required as we went along (nothing major).  The ash was a nice light grey, but never instilled terribly much confidence that it would hold on much beyond half an inch – it certainly seemed quite delicate. 22

Flavour /25

The pre-light draw was grassy with hints of liquorice.  This was in stark contrast to the quite intense roasted nut profile on lighting.  This nuttiness was tempered, very nicely, with a slight coffee-creaminess.  This was a Bolivar par excellence at the outset.  After about twenty minutes a slight grassiness did eventually develop, though hints of nut still remained alongside a touch of woodiness.  There remained a distinct nuttiness to the aroma.  The grass continued for a short while before giving way to almonds as the primary flavour (slight grassy notes remained at the back of the profile though).  Gradually the grass faded entirely, and the almonds became more subdued at the same time, with a lovely creamy flavour returning – this time highlighted with citrus notes.  As the cigar drew to a close, there were some more hints of coffee before some meaty flavours started to develop, alongside a slightly tannic mouth feel.  At this stage, as the cigar came to its conclusion, I decided to lay it down and relax contentedly. 23

Overall Impression /35

Habanos SA deleted the Bolivar Coronas Extra, eventually, in 2012.  They must have had their reasons, though clearly the quality of the product cannot have been one of them.  I found this cigar to be a delightful journey, and everything that a bolivar should be – rounded creaminess for the most part, with hints of nuts, wood, and citrus.  The CE hit the mark perfectly with a satisfying medium-full body and flavour.  It will be a very sad day when these are no longer available because they really are a perfect cigar.  Perfect size, well balanced flavours, and a Bolivar fan’s absolute dream.  RIP. 32

Grand total… 90/100

SO… Grab some boxes whilst they’re left!

Punch Medalla de Oro (2011 UK RE)

(Size: 6 1/8″ x 50  —  Time: 1hr 30mins)

So then, it has been some time since I last added a new entry to the blog.  For that I must apologise, though I suspect you were all quite thankful not to have to read my ramblings on the hot subjects of the day.  I’ve been jotting down some tasting notes this week as I’ve travelled around the country for a couple of herfs.  I’ve also managed to unearth a pad with notes I thought I had lost.  I shall be releasing these ‘lost’ reviews in the run-up to Christmas.  The BBC released the ‘lost’ series two of Dad’s Army to much fanfare.  Meanwhile I’m sure that there is the same level of tingling anticipation for my reviews as is usually only reserved for Middlesborough Council’s Annual Traffic Report…

Irrelevant small-talk aside, let’s talk about the Punch Medalla de Oro, a regional release for the UK. Hunters & Frankau chose this dobles sized cigar alongside the Bolivar Britanicas as their 2011 offerings (though both were released alongside the Ramon Allones Petit Belicosos in 2012).  I thoroughly enjoyed the RA when I tried it, so I hoped that the Punch would be just as good.  The day was set up for an enjoyable afternoon, as I travelled up to Chester for a mini-herf with my good friend (and sometime guest reviewer on CM) Dan Ward.  We visited the Turmeaus on Watergate Street in the city’s fine Tudor centre.  Calum and the rest of the team were friendly, attentive and enthusiastic about the cigars they were selling – and offered between them some excellent advice as to a good local COSA to visit after they closed.  Myself and Dan chose the inviting Punch Medalla de Oro and sat down in the small sampling area to enjoy…

Appearance /15

As the name would suggest, the Punch Medalla de Oro is very similar in appearance to the Bolivar Gold Medal – both being neatly wrapped in gold foil.  The cigar looked incredibly inviting, a grown-up Easter egg…  The foot was neatly packed, and the cigar was firm (but not hard) along its entire length: a sign of good construction and equally as good storage.  Removing the foil revealed a pleasant wrapper, with a few small veins, all running in the same diagonal direction.  The wrapper had just a slight sheen to it, and was a colorado claro shade – lighter than one would normally expect from a special release, but attractive.  14

Smoking Characteristics /25

The cigar lit quickly, easily, and evenly.  The early burn remained even also.  Both Dan and I were impressed with the draw of our cigars, with Dan describing it as “just right”. Our agreement on this issue would suggest that these a fairly consistent cigars, and the slight resistance was spot on.  The smoke produced was thick and aromatic – with many visitors to the store commenting on the lovely aroma which we were creating.  The smoke production was good throughout for both cigars.  From start to finish the burn was fairly even and straight, with only a couple of minor touch ups required on each stick.  The ash was solid, light, and only slightly mottled, with next to no flaking.  The only issue we really found was that both cigars demonstrated some minor tunnelling, nothing major, but it required a little bit of attention.  Despite the tunnelling, the cigar remained firm throughout.  23

Flavour /25

Straight off the bat the Medalla de Oro was a bit peppery, with some nice roasted nut notes.  This intense first few puffs soon settled down, and a creaminess developed alongside the pepper and nuts.  The intensity continued to drop through the first third, and by the middle of the stick it was very subtle, possibly even subdued.  The flavour profile had shifted slightly by this stage too, with it being more woody (Dan suggest slightly oaky, which I would go along with), there were also just hints of berry coming through.  At this stage, we decided a mineral forward Sancerre would have been a better match to the cigar than our (gorgeous) Puglian Primitivo, but we weren’t complaining – the cigar was good, and the wine delicious.  As the cigar approached its final third, some warming spices started to develop alongside the wood, which soon gave way to a return of the pepper from the first third.  The final third wasn’t terribly exciting, though we were impressed that it didn’t become at all tarry (despite its youth).  At the very death, some “considered” spiciness came to the fore, with a touch more wood in the background.  21

Overall Impression /35

The Punch Medalla de Oro is a cigar which promises a little more than it delivers.  It is a nice cigar, and through the middle is what one would expect of a Punch cigar – fruity with a bit of wood.  The opening promised so much more than the stick delivered – it is relatively young, and I’d suggest that it has the potential to add a few more points to its score from today.  It does look stunning, and the construction was excellent.  It smoked well, and was never anything less than good.  However, as an RE, I would suggest that it is currently a little overpriced for what it actually is. 31

Grand total… 89/100

Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra

(Size: 5 5/8″ x 46  —  Time: 1hr 15mins)

Box Code: Exact code unknown (Year: 2005)

I was in London a couple of weeks ago to visit a consultant about my dodgy knee.  Whilst there, I felt it was about time that I tried out Boisdale of Canary Wharf.  I could write quite a monologue on the joys of that establishment, and I shall, but this is a review of the cigar I smoked on their terrace after my lunch there.  Along with the reasonably aged cigar, I picked a whisky from their extensive (and I mean extensive) whisky list…  In doing so I was righting a wrong – that as a single-malt lover I had not properly sampled Highland Park’s 12 year old expression.

This is only the second Rafael Gonzalez I have reviewed on the Cigar Monologues.  The last was the Petit Corona – a cigar which I have tried a few times now, but never seems to perform.  However, I needed to give this brand another go.  There is lots of positive talk to be found about the Panatelas Extra, so it’s only natural that I would try out the Coronas Extra!  That’s just me though – and you need a slightly larger proportioned cigar to follow a meal.  Oh yes, and as it wouldn’t be one of my reviews without a at least one piece of rather pointless trivia, so here you go: Rafael Gonzalez was the first brand to refer to a Cervantes sized cigar as a Lonsdale, named after Hugh Cecil Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale.

Appearance /15

This cigar was slightly box-pressed after about six years in a dress box – that is no bad thing in my book.  The wrapper was a light, milk chocolate shade, with a small number of minor, but visible, veins.  The cap was applied with skill.  13

Smoking Characteristics /25

The pre-light aroma of the RG Coronas Extra was milk-chocolate – matching the wrapper tone beautifully.  The cigar lit quite easily and the draw was good from the off.  The smoke produced was of good quantity and had that wonderful ‘thick’ quality to it.  Both the draw and the smoke were positives throughout the whole duration of this cigar.  The ash was mid-grey, with just a few darker fleks, and was reassuringly solid.  Unfortunately, the burn was not always especially even – despite starting well the burn required all too frequent touch-ups as the cigar progressed .  Despite the occasionally uneven nature of the burn, it stayed lit effortlessly, even when I had to leave it untended for a few minutes on a couple of occasions.  Not a perfectly constructed cigar, but no issues of any real concern.  22

Flavour /25

The initial dry draw was slightly sweet and floral on the RG Coronas Extra; the sweetness came through during the early draws after lighting, along with a creamy smoothness.  The flavour gradually became less sweet, with a drier, cedar flavour beginning to predominate after an inch or so.  In time, this cedar receded, to be replaced by the initial sweetness; this time there were also floral and grassy notes – more akin to the pre-light draw than anything since lighting.  Slowly some hints of cedar returned, along with just a suggestion of some aniseed-based notes.  Sadly, the final progression of this stage was a straight-up wood flavour, which, unlike the rest of the cigar, was not having any hints of sweetness highlighted by the Highland Park 12yo I was drinking.  Thankfully that section was short lived; it was replaced with something from left-field – some ‘meaty’ flavours.  What I was getting was in some way reminscent of wonderful sticky ribs on a charcoal barbeque – giving a really nice, rich smokeyness.  As the cigar reached the nub this changed again, bookending the cigar with some sweet, floral notes – this time with some balance from roast almond nuances.  23

Overall Impression /35

Overall, I have to say that the Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra was quite a pleasant surprise for me.  It doesn’t come from a marque that I’ve particularly enjoyed in the past, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  What I got was a beautiful light-to-medium bodied cigar with some lovely, medium flavours.  Whilst there were perhaps a couple of issues with the construction, these were merely minor annoyances (nothing really important) and are overshadowed by a relatively complex and enjoyable cigar.  As such, this is definitely a cigar I would recommend as worth trying – I would suggest that it is an ideal stick to pick from the humidor for some time in the garden on a summer’s afternoon.  33

Grand total… 91/100