Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Personal Reserve

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It’s no secret that Arturo Fuente makes some damned fine cigars. Many of his lines, including the famed Añejo and Opus X, rank among my personal favorites. So, when I discovered the Don Carlos personal reserve I knew I’d be in for a real treat.

The packaging on this cigar is handsome, very classic Fuente styling with just enough gold to exude class without being gauche. The cigar is also beautifully wrapped, with flawless construction aesthetically speaking. I gave it a classic cut and toasted it slowly with a soft flame lighter. This was a stick worth paying extra attention to.

The first few puffs gave me a combination of leather and black pepper. The pepper pops waned and (excuse the metaphor) it began to feel as though I was sinking into a well worn recliner. The strength was perfectly balanced and highly conducive to lounging. Call this a stress relief cigar. The smoke production was also impressive, nothing too strong but enough to feel substantial and give a very creamy mouthfeel.

The second third saw the leather flavor deepen into a slightly caramelized simple syrup. Rich and deep. The cigar was burning razor straight and was cool to the touch at this point. The value of construction is definitely not just aesthetic here.

The final third brought an even deeper syrupy flavor and an increase in strength. Each puff felt and tasted like molasses dripping off the tongue. However, it never became too cloying. This was a CIGAR, and a very subtle woodsy note did begin to permeate the smoke during the final third.

If I had to describe this cigar in a word, it would be “balance”. Each puff feels complete, and though its not quite as attention grabbing as some of the smokes I’ve tried, it’s one that commands your respect. In the same way that your mind begins to wander to wondrous places even while you enjoy the sensation of a good massage, this cigar is conducive to whiling away an hour or so in near complete relaxation.

 

Bernheim Original Wheat Bourbon

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51% winter wheat, 39% corn, 10% barley malt. 45% ABV.

It’s cold outside now in Austin and we’re back at it with the whiskey reviews. Last week, I wanted to try a new wheat bourbon. I’m only really familiar with WL Weller, a staple over at C&W, and it’s such a reliable bottle that I’ve rarely ventured out to see what else is out there. The Weller, which we’ve reviewed here a while back, features a chewy, satisfying flavor and stays away from oversweet qualities or astringency that might be endemic to a wheat whiskey. It was against the Weller standard that I rolled the dice on the Bernheim Original.

Three of us settled on the porch, each with different cigars but splitting the Bernheim, a few splashes each and neat. By itself, the Bernheim is astringent. If you’re unfamiliar with this taste, do you know how you’ve choked down Robitussin as a little kid, at the direction of a parent or a school nurse? The first part of Robitussin, out of those little plastic caps, is not that bad. It tastes a little bit rich, round, like licorice. But the end – what we call the backsip – is the rough part. It makes you pucker your lips and grimace unrecognizably. The Bernheim, without any water or ice to open itself up, has the same effect. So, because we like to enjoy ourselves and not feel like we are taking medicine, we added some water.

Room-temperature water opened up this bottle very well. The Bernheim only needed a splash, and we could taste some vanilla, cedar and of course the wheat. Grant, who had joined us on the back porch for the night, mentioned that a couple of big ice cubes were his favorite way to water down a nice whiskey. I agree with this. You may taste something different in the drink when the ice is at various melted levels; we were fresh out of cubes, so water had to do. Either way, we were drinking a wheat bourbon on the back porch – hard to complain otherwise.

Even though some water saved the night, it’s difficult to justify the Bernheim Original for the price. The 750 ml bottle ran for about $28, the same price point as WL Weller. It’s a thinner, less developed wheat bourbon, and Weller is just the superior product in this field. If you happen to need a wheat bourbon for a particular sort of cocktail, the Bernheim is excellent – a couple of days later I used it for a hot toddy kind of drink with a cider, and the sharpness complemented some of the sweetness. But if you’re hoping to sip something straight, neat or with an ice cube, spring for a different wheat bourbon. I’m continuing the hunt for something to beat WL Weller.

La Palma Dominican Maduro Corona


If you visit Denver Colorado, you will be very tempted to drive everywhere particularly if you are near the outskirts where several of the craft breweries call home. It’s wide open, with plenty of industrial warehouses, body shops, and shipping businesses. However, resist the temptation. You will stumble upon many absolutely hidden gems. Although they are not located in an obviously close area, in about half an hour I ran across an urban winery, chocolate tasting room, several breweries I’d never heard of, and finally a tucked away cigar lounge with a serious focus on rum. That’s where this current tale was written.

Being out of town, I’m usually interested in the novelty of a new store. I try to see the new blends that may have come out that are yet unavailable in my area or simply difficult to find. In this case I asked the proprietor for a recommendation for “something new and/or particularly interesting” in his humidor. He mentioned some Tatuajes and Illusiones (excellent choices to be sure), but then said “I actually have my own blend that I sell here”. Bingo.

Now, if you’ve been to some smaller cigar shops, you’ll know that many times this is an iffy proposition. To be honest, they are usually fairly amateur. However, I am one to judge a book by its cover for better or worse, and these were clearly thoughtfully packaged. I probed a bit further, and realized after some minor discussion that this was no throw-away blend. This was an enthusiast who put together something interesting that he personally wanted to smoke. When he mentioned his specific pairing preference (Cuban-style rums) that these were particularly blended for, I knew I had a winner in hand. So, I cheerfully purchased a corona (his preferred Vitolo, and usually mine) and bellied up to the bar with a nice glass of Viscaya 21 rum (another personal recommendation – normally I’m fairly confident in my drink selections, but I’ll never pass up a personally curated experience from the blender himself).


The cigar opens up with several big flavors, all vying for dominance in the first third of the stick. I got black pepper, cedar and cinnamon in equal measure, though the cedar began to soften into something more syrupy as the the third progressed, and the cinnamon melded beautifully as the black pepper gave way slowly until it added just a touch of heat on the retrohale. The flavors linger for a long time on the tongue, and here’s where the dedication shines through. This particular blend accentuates and mitigates the somewhat cloying sweetness of the rum, forming an elegant marriage that, though perhaps overwhelming on an invidual basis, morphs into a whole substantially more elegant than the sum of its parts.

 The second third really accentuates the smoothness while adding just a touch of caramel and sugar cane without losing that toasted cedar flavor in the first. Again, these tastes are powerful, yet they don’t overwhelm the rum and vice versa. I’ll also add that the venue is the perfect place to enjoy such an experience, plush with leather couches, a well-placed ventilation system, and electing hanging lamps. It is down to earth but luxurious. The conversation with Clay doesn’t hurt either, he’s a great conversationalist and worth the seat at the bar alone. 


The final third of the cigar is an extension of the second, the flavors continuing to meld with the occasional pop of pepper as if to remind you that you’re smoking something interesting and you oughtn’t to drift off in the clouds of perfumed smoke too much. No doubt that you need to pay attention to the rum as well, though they meld so beautifully that is honestly hard not to just sit back and drift off into introspection. 

I’ll say a word on the construction of the cigar as well. There are two kinds of excellent construction: those that perform well consistently, and those that recover without any real babying. This cigar falls into the second category. Several times I was sure it had gone out and would require a relight, but a few puffs brought it easily back to light. It kept a sharp burn throughout and never had any major issues.


If you ever find yourself in Denver and want a very chill cigar smoking experience, look up Palma Cigars and settle yourself in. The blender/proprietor, Clay Carlton, will treat you right. He’s also a fervent support of our troops and has sent cigars overseas for years. It’s a great place, a great cigar, and well worth your money and your visit.

Redbreast 12 Year

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I opened the Redbreast 12 on a recent evening when the weather was just perfect. I had finished the first grilled steak of the year, a massive bone-in ribeye that turned out just perfect with beautiful marbling and a side of buttered asparagus. This, I felt, was the prefect environment to crack into the Redbreast, an Irish whiskey referred to by many of my colleagues as “one of the best.”

The nose is elegant and rich. I got brown sugar and caramel with just a hint of fruit.

I added one very large cube of slow melting ice and took my first sip. The flavors I picked up in the nose were present here. The fruit notes turned out to be a touch of dried apricot. And this drink went down smooth, though unlike the Tullamore Dew we tasted recently, it had just enough bite to remind you that you were drinking a pretty stoic drink. I liked that.

As the cube melted the flavors mellowed and I picked up a touch of cream underneath the heavy sweetness of the fruit and sugars. These mingled beautifully, and I drank the rest down in a couple of gulps. I know not to let a drink this good get too watered down.

I will have to say that I concur with other assessments of the Redbreast 12: it is one of the finest Irish whiskeys I have ever tried. Frankly, it might be the best. I highly recommend you pick some up to treat yourself after a rich meal.

Your Funny Cigar Stories

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We recently ran a contest on our Facebook page to get some funny cigar stories from our fans. We got some great laughs out of all of them, but in the end we had to choose one. For overall absurdity (and hand-rolled cigar goodness!) here is our pick:

“About two years ago my wife and I were visiting her family in Puerto Rico and decided to spend the day in Old San Juan, which was about an hour and a half away. One of her many sisters decided to go with us. At about 10:00am we were in a plaza and I noticed there were two gentlemen rolling cigars under a tent. I went over to meet and talk cigars with them. Turns out one of them, a torcedor, owned a tobacco farm in PR. He offered me a freshly rolled cigar and it was full bodied and quite good. They were surprised that a gringo could speak fluent Spanish with them. My wife and sister found me and said they were going shopping while I stayed with my two new friends. The owner asked if I would like to go with him to visit his farm and I said I would. I asked the other gentlemen if when my wife came looking for me to tell her I would meet her back at the tent at 4:00pm. We ended up staying at the farm until about 5:30pm. When my wife came looking for me at the tent, the gentleman who had been there had left and another was in his place. He had no idea what my wife was talking about. My wife panicked and alerted local law enforcement that I had been missing since that morning. I returned to the plaza around 6:00, my wife and sister were there giving a statement to the police. When she saw me she got so pissed and embarrassed having called them. I thought it was funny and started laughing. She literally didn’t speak to me for two days. She thinks it’s funny now but she didn’t at the time.”

Congratulations Jack Davis, you win a free smoke for letting us have a laugh at your story!

We also have another winner, chosen from those who shared our status to spread the word. That winner is…Rob Bare!

If you two gentleman will send us a message on Facebook with your shipping info we’ll get your smokes to you. Thanks for playing everyone and check in soon for the next Facebook contest!