262 Paradigm Lancero

 

Price: $9.50

Size: 7×38 Lancero

Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina

Filler: Columbian & Nicaraguan

Binder: Honduran

Smoking Time: 80 minutes

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Initial Impression:  The 262 Paradigm Lancero was recommended to me by a friend at a B&M we stopped at on our travels.  I’d never had anything by 262 cigars so I was willing to give it a try.   The wrapper had a beautiful color and the cap had a nice twist to it, but the veins and overall lumpiness of the cigar actually had me questioning it.  Still there was a sort of elegance to it.  Every time I saw it in my humidor it attracted my attention until I finally decided (when the snow and ice stopped) to give it a try.  It has a spicy sweet smell that is kind of airy.  Cold draw gives more spice.

First Third:  The cigar lit easily and immediately started putting out volumes of thick creamy smoke.  There is a light sweet taste left on the lips afterward almost like a flavored cigar but not nearly as strong as to suggest an additive. It is almost like a sweet tea.  The smoke coming off the stick has a great sweet wood smell to it and is very easy on the nose.  I even accidentally inhaled some and it wasn’t harsh at all.  It almost reminded me of hookah smoke it was so cool and thick.  Mild in strength and flavor right now which is interesting as so many other lanceros just blast full-strength at you.

Second Third: There is now a slight pepper in the back of the throat and the smoke has a more pronounced nut profile.  With the thick creamy smoke it reminded me of almond butter.  Just fantastic.  The strength picked up a little bit but didn’t really reach medium through this point.   The ash breaks off every inch or so like any lancero but the burn has been excellent and consistent with no need for touch ups.

Final Third:  The flavors stayed consistent through the final third and the only thing that really changed was the wood tones picking up.  I eagerly smoked this cigar down to the nub.

Conclusion: I never thought I would say that a Lancero would be good with breakfast or be a good cigar for a beginner.  That changed with this cigar.  The thick and balanced mild creamy smoke would just be awesome to top off a coffee or after a light morning meal.  I have yet to have anything else from 262 yet but if their other cigars are as good as this one then (and its my suspicion they would be) I highly recommend trying them.  Also, even though they do carry an average lancero price they are well worth that price.

I give this cigar a 4.7 out of 5

PS Pairing – If you enjoy the Paradigm I highly recommend pairing this cigar with sweet tea.  I paired it with my third Paradigm and it was just fantastic.  I know I usually recommend an alcoholic beverage here but just straight sweet tea was great.  Add some vodka or something I don’t know.

Viaje Friends & Family Cadeau

 

Price: $16

Size: 7×48 Box Press

Wrapper: Unknown

Filler: Unknown

Binder: Uknown

Smoking Time: 90 minutes

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Initial Impression: The Friends and Family is a really beautiful cigar. Viaje has a lot of attractive releases and very neat packaging so this should be no surprise. I was browsing a nearby B&M that has a lot of Viaje releases. Initially I was looking for the Dark Meat and then I saw the Christmas Release with its neat packaging. Then I got to the F&F and I fell in love with the rich milk chocolate brown toothy wrapper. It is slightly mottled in color throughout and the wrapper is firm and oily but has a very nice amount of give. The presentation was beautiful and the white background with silver lettering really made it stand out. I immediately forgot about the previous sticks I was looking at and purchased 3 of these to review.

First Third: The cold draw was quite loose and I was thinking to myself that I was going to be disappointed. Not the case. After lighting up I can safely say that the draw was perfectly matched by the thickness of the smoke. The smoke was a light white smoke and it was actually enhanced by the loose draw. I usually like a thick smoke too but the F&F’s smoke was just perfect. I was hit with a nice spice at the front along with a great woody profile and a little sweetness. Chocolate notes with a pepper finish came after a half inch.  The ash was a little flaky and came off at about the inch mark.

Second Third: The cigar was good to begin with but this is where it really hit its stride. First of all I tasted a flavor I never have in a cigar before, two in fact: fruit cake and pomegranate. Call me crazy but there was a nice fruity flavor at the beginning of the midsection and it was about 4 puffs in that it came to me that it was pomegranate. Just slight bitterness but with the accompanying sweet of the fruit of the underworld. Several puffs later and it combined with a light bready sweetness and all I could think of was fruitcake. It was awesome. This “sweet spot” if you’ll excuse the pun lasted for quite some time given the 7″ size of the vitola and was greatly enjoyable and complex while still remaining light and airy in the smoke. Despite the lighter nature of the smoke it is definitely medium to slightly full and I began to feel it around the end of this third.

Final Third: The fruit profile faded to the background and now a sweet caramel starts on the front, goes to a more complex wood profile, and finishes with a light macadamia nut. One of the most astounding things to me in this third is that the cigar hasn’t gotten hot once despite how thoroughly I’ve been puffing away. In my bliss of other cigars I’ve sometimes been over-zealous and gotten a nasty burnt flavor or a tar build-up. I know that I’ve been smoking this cigar too fast and it was keeping pace and stayed great. I nubbed this stick and I almost never do that. Never once did I have to relight or touch up the F&F. That is impressive because a lot of high-quality sticks still need some baby-sitting. It is doubly impressive because even reliable cigars get owned by the Colorado triple threat: cold, dryness, and wind.

Conclusion: The Viaje Friends and Family catapulted in to my top 5 cigars today and I understand thoroughly why this was a limited release of an already limited release company. The draw was perfect for the flavors and smoke despite my usual preference for something tighter and thicker, and the flavors were delightfully complex and never got boring. Even the smoke had an enjoyable aroma. I felt like I actually smelled good afterward! If you get a chance to get this smoke, get a bunch. They won’t let you down and I’m headed back to the B&M for more. Finally for those of you who don’t know I grade by a plus or minus .25 scale.  The fact that I am giving this cigar the score below means that it is as close to a perfect score as I am willing to give.

I give this cigar a 4.9 out of 5

P.S. Pairing – This one is actually hard and one of the reasons I didn’t give this cigar a perfect score honestly. Bourbon is out because it is too sweet. Scotch is out as the peat would not compliment well. Vodka would not enhance any of the flavors, and Whiskey might pair well except the fruit tones wouldn’t match in the midsection and would likely be lost all together as the smoke was so light. Even a lighter floral beer like a Saison wouldn’t match up to this unique cigar. Given the subtlety of the flavors, the fruit tones, and the lightness of the smoke, I’m going to say that a semi-sweet white wine would actually pair best oddly. I had a small glass of Cupcake with my second one and it was great. Although I didn’t have one on hand I’d say that a lighter side Amber Ale would also probably be nice.

Oliva Master Blends 3 Torpedo

 

Price: $10 – $12

Size: 6X52 Torpedo

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Broadleaf Sun-Grown

Filler: Nicaraguan Ligero

Binder: Nicaraguan Habano

Smoking Time: 90-100 minutes

oliva mb3

Initial Impression: This cigar just looks and feels good.  It smells good too but I’ll get to that in a minute.  The wrapper is oily, velvety, and toothy. I like that.  In fact, the first thing that jumped to mind was the Padron 1926 that was sitting nearby.  Any time you have a cigar that has an appearance and construction similar to that line, it is setting up for a win.  The mild box-press wasn’t extreme as it still has nicely rounded corners and it has a good heft and a comfortable hold.  The cigar smells of woody hay with a nice spice to follow.  The cap cut super cleanly and the cigar had a cocoa and pepper flavor on the cold draw. Let’s light it up!

1st Third: It is rare to get so much pepper right off the bat, but this thing starts off like a punch to the tongue.  Its not harsh mind you but it is the hot version of pepper more than spicy.  After the first few puffs I had to start slowing down as it was coating my whole mouth in pepper savagery.  Past the first half inch though it is like a switch turned off that flavor and it settled down a bit.  That is where this cigar got damn good.  Rich woods, leather, cinnamon, and just the tiniest hint of caramel joined the profile and the cigar is now putting out plumes of thick blue and brown smoke.  I didn’t really taste any of the cocoa that I got on the cold draw, but the cigar is quite complex at this point so I might just be missing it.  There is no mistaking this cigar for anything but full-bodied.

2nd Third: The pepper subsided even more now and gave way to a more complex wood profile and is now joined with stronger leather.  The ash is delightfully sturdy and only ashes when I feel it needs to evidencing high quality construction to be sure.  The smoke is still as thick as ever and the draw is perfect.

Final Third: Same profile as before but it struck a nicer balance in this final third.  It is always amazing to have a cigar just get better and better as you smoke it.  It got a little hot at about an inch left and I put it out at that point.  I didn’t even want to chance ending with anything harsh after the excellent display of balance and flavor at the end.

Conclusion:  When this stick started off so peppery I was honestly worried that it would stay that way through the whole stick.  I was delighted to be wrong and every half inch lead to new complexities and greater balance.  Additionally the construction on this was top notch.  Felt and smoked similar to the Padron 1926 at half the price which is always a win in my book.  This cigar is definitely not for beginners though as it is quite strong.  This cigar is going to be even better with some aging.  I am definitely putting a number of these away to rest and highly encourage anybody to try this stick but be ready for that start.

I give this cigar a 4.75 out of 5.

P.S. Pairing – with its light caramel notes and woody profile VSOP Courvosier makes an excellent choice.  Tried it with my second stick for the review and it balanced and complimented the stick very well.

My Father Le Bijou 1922 Petit Robusto

 

Price: $7

Size: 4.5 x 50

Wrapper: Nicaraguan

Binder: Nicaraguan

Filler: Nicaraguan

Smoking Time: 70 minutes (longer than I expected)

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First Impression: Finally a warm enough day to smoke outside in Colorado.  Still the sun is setting soon so I need a smallish stick that won’t be too long of a smoke.  I rummage through my humidor and I the My Father Le Bijou 1922 Petit Robusto stands out.  This cigar has a toothy brown wrapper that is much darker than the original line which had an Ecuadorian wrapper. The cap cut cleanly and the cold draw gave notes of wood and pepper.

First Third:  I was expecting the usual pepper from the My Father line, but what I wasn’t expecting was how harsh this cigar would start off. Thankfully it passed after about half an inch. This was about the time that the stick got much creamier and had hints of vanilla and chocolate.  Around the end of the first third I also got a very strong floral taste like mint?  I had never had that flavor show up before and sadly it disappeared before I could really grab hold of what it was.

Second Third: The pepper diminished here and gave way to more creaminess and a nice cedar and oak  profile.  The cigar is now producing a LOT of thick smoke, almost Undercrown levels, and the burn is super even.  This section was definitely the most enjoyable of the cigar.  It also convinced me it was a medium body stick here.  Peppery and strong but not overly so.

Final Third: More of the same flavor profile as the second third.  I grew a little bored (and cold) as the cigar which I was expecting to last for 45-50 minutes has taken me past the hour mark for sure.  However, I can say with certainty that this cigar never got hot and stayed creamy through the whole stick.  That is a trait which I have noticed of most MF cigars.

Conclusion: This was certainly a good stick.  I had no issues with burn or construction.  The creamy smoke was pleasant and the flavors were good albeit slightly one-dimensional.  I can’t help but compare it to the original Le Bijou 1922 though and find that I would have preferred the original to the new.  However, with its easy size and with the Jose Pepin Garcia level of consistency this is a good choice for a quick (somewhat) smoke that has some good flavors.  Still I think I prefer my MF cigars with an Ecuadorian wrapper instead.

I give this cigar a 4.25 out of 5

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P.S. Pairing: With a peppery creamy stick like this I prefer to have something slightly sweet to go with it to balance out the flavors.  I smoked my first one with Bookers Small Batch Bourbon, and the second I had with Spring 44 Single Barrel as the Spring 44 is slightly subdued and not as complex.  The bourbon will bring out the sweeter notes in this cigar as well and help accentuate the wood profile.

Illusione Holy Lance Candela and a Memorial

Price: $9.50
Size: 7 1/2″ x 40
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Smoking Time: 1.5 Hours

Illusione Holy Lance Candela

First Impression: This lancero is covered in the delicate and beautiful green Candela wrapper that is seldom seen in the cigar world.  It has a rich velvety texture with a few large veins.  There is not much aroma to it, but it has a grassy and floral odor. The cap cut decently, but there was a bit of a split.  It is clear that this wrapper is delicate.  Cold draw gives off some earthy spicy tones.

First Third:  From the first draws the smoke is quite thick; surprisingly so considering the vitola.  There is a burst of sweet grass and cinnamon on the inhale that finishes with an earthy hickory and pepper.  I was expecting a more light bodied stick considering the Candela wrapper.  Well, this Holy Lance is piercing through my expectations and delivering a full-bodied, medium-full strength performance so far.  The burn is impeccable which I don’t find too often with Lanceros.

Second Third:  As we get in to the second third, a sour citrus and floral taste start coming through in the mix.  It adds a nice bit of complexity and again threw me for a loop as I wasn’t expecting such a complex stick.  The sweetgrass and hay stay on my lips from the wrapper, but it is about this point that the wrapper starts to break up a bit.  It did require a bit of careful touch up. The smoke is still as thick as ever and it has become even stronger.

Halfway point of Illusione Holy Lance

Final Third:  With each length of the cigar, it seems to build on a more complex profile of flavor.  As I near the end of the stick, some slight vanilla and Oak get added to the already complex mix.  By this time I am buzzing from the strength of the Holy Lance, and switched from water which is my norm to Coke as I needed the sugar.  The cigar smoked well until the very end, and never got acrid.

Conclusion:  I’ve yet to have an Illusione that is not complex and full of flavor.  This was certainly no exception.  The entire time I smoked the holy lance, I felt like I was smoking Spring in the form of a lancero.  Deep earth, hickory and oak, florals, cinnamon and sweet spices, with citrus and pepper to boot.  On paper I don’t even imagine those flavors going together, but it was so well balanced in its complexity.  Besides the flavors, the draw was just perfect, the smoke was delightfully thick, and except for one spot there was almost no touching up to be done which is a rare attribute for a lancero.  The delicate wrapper is one of this cigar’s few weaknesses as storing it safely can be a chore, but that is easy to overlook for how enjoyable this cigar was.  It was all I could have asked for as I thought about my friend.

I give this cigar a 4.75 out of 5.

In Memorium: Mike Aversa June 1, 1985 – February 12, 2008

He lost his life during a patrol when he sustained a head injury. He was my friend.  He was a son. He was loved.  Feel free to post below if you have ever lost a friend or relative to the tide of combat.  May they rest in peace. Thank you to all of the men and women who serve in the armed forces. If you would like to donate cigars to our troops please find out how you can by clicking here.

Mike gave me this hat when we were friends in college.  I wear it still today.

Mike gave me his hat when we were friends in college. I wear it still today. Miss you buddy.

Notes: hay, hickory, earth, cinnamon, florals, pepper, vanilla, oak, and sour citrus

Buena Vista Reserva

Price: $11.00
Size: 4 1/4″ x 54
Wrapper: Ecuadorian
Binder: Ecuadorian
Filler: Dominican and Ecuadorian
Smoking Time: 1 Hour

Buena Vista Short Churchill

First Impression:  One of the first things I noticed about this particular mild cigar was that the wrapper was VERY shiny.  Being susceptible to such marketing I decided to look closer.  The second thing I noticed about the Buena Vista Reserva was that the cut was rather interesting.  The foot was cut at a slight angle, and the cap was slightly disheveled looking.  Despite this, the construction felt quite good.  I picked up a few for review and let them sit for about 4 months.  One of the more peculiar aspects of this cigar is the smell. Of which it doesn’t have much of one.  There are no notes of manure, not many spices or leather.  There is just a faint hay smell with a tiny bit of nut.  There are some large veins but they are spaced rather far apart so I’m hoping there will be no issues.  The cap cut clean and the foot lit well.

Buena Vista Reserva Short Churchill

First Third: The first third of this cigar might as well have been dessert.  A nice nut and wood taste followed with a sweet tobacco finish and a mild pepper.   There was also an occasional plum-raisin taste that was delightful, but I would have enjoyed it much more if it had been on each inhale.  This cigar is very mild strength and mild bodied as well.  The draw is tighter than I would like, but I hoped it would open as I continued.  I also had a feeling that puffing this guy too hard might turn it to the dark side. Additionally, there were some burn issues early on as evidenced by the trench running down the side in the photo above.

Buena Vista Reserva Short Churchill

Second Third: Honestly, there wasn’t really anything that changed in this second third.  The burn issue was resolved, and the draw was still tight.  Flavor wise, this is the same stick that I started with. The best thing that I can say about the cigar at this point, is the ash is holding really tight.  That kind of worried me though, as the ash should not be the standout thing about a cigar.

Buena Vista Reserva Short Churchill

Final Third:  Near the final third I am getting kind of bored.  The flavor is still pretty much the same.  Its good, but not quite good enough to keep me enthralled.  I had more burn issues to touch up, and as I got near the end it started getting rather acrid tasting. When the wrapper started to unravel near the end, I put it to rest.

Buena Vista Reserva Short Churchill Ashes

Conclusion: I will be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of mild cigars. That being said, this cigar still gets demerits for burn issues, lack of complexity, too tight of a draw, and most importantly not living up to that shiny band!  In all seriousness though there are better mild cigars out there and I was rather disappointed by this cigar, especially at its price point.  If you do like mild cigars, this may be worth a try for you, but I recommend starting with a shorter vitola.

I give this cigar a 3.75 out of 5

Notes: Nuts, light pepper, plum, raisin, hay, sweet tobacco

Illusione 88

 

Price: $8.00
Size: 5″ x 52
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 1.5 hours

Illusione 88

First Impression: As I was browsing my B&M looking for a stick, the Illusione 88 jumped out at me.  With its curiously bumpy rich red-brown wrapper it was certainly unlike the other sticks I was considering.  So I bought a couple.  9 months later it is time to review them! The foot is very clean and the triple cap is expertly applied.  The sticks are rather veiny, but nothing large or out of hand.  It cut well and the cold draw gave me a nice woody leather taste with a spicy aroma left in the nostrils.

Illusione 88_1

First Third: The cigar lit beautifully and there is a delectably complex wood flavor, mostly cedar and mahogany, coupled with a caramel-like sweetness and a moderately peppery finish. It’s very earthy and thick. Most of the wood flavors must be coming from the wrapper as the same flavors linger on the lips. The smoke is dark-brown and grey that matches the color of the somewhat odd-looking ash.  The burn is relatively uneven, but not needing a touch-up.  The one thing that does stand out to me beyond the nicely complex flavor is the superior draw.  I mean, it was phenomenal.

Illusione 88_2

Second Third: Almost immediately after the first third, the cigar ashed and went out.  What a bummer.  However the second third is where this stick truly blossomed.  The pepper subsided to the background and the sweetness came forth.  The wood flavor is still just as present, but there are hints of coffee now too.  The only unfortunate part was the constant babysitting and relighting that was required. 3 times it went out and had to be restarted.  It seemed guaranteed with every ashing.

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Final Third: The burn troubles continued in this final third, but the great flavor compelled me to continue. During this final third there was actually an interesting flavor that I could only pick up on the relight.  It was strange.  Like a whipped sugary egg white.  Syrupy almost.  It was brand new texture.  I put the cigar to rest when the wood started to taste more like charcoal.

Illusione 88 nub

Conclusion: This was a complex and very unique stick.  From the diversity of the flavors to the interesting tactile sensation of the wrapper, this was definitely unlike most cigars.  Although there were many things to enjoy about the cigar like the aforementioned aspects and the draw, the constant babysitting and relighting got tedious at about the 3rd relight.  Still, I know this is a cigar that I will return to and one I would recommend trying at least once as it is so unique.

I give this cigar a 4.25 out of 5

Notes: Caramel, pepper, cedar, oak, earth, coffee, egg, graham cracker