Archive for Smokes

Smoke Blog: Foundry Uranium

It’s been a while since a cigar kicked my ass, and the Uranium from Foundry’s Compounds, Elements, & Musings line came pretty close.

The CE&M line is Foundry’s small batch, a mix of blends that will even vary within the same box. My guess is the names are all about the size and shape of the cigars first, and then the design of their boxes and bands. There were a few different Foundry options in the humidor I shopped, and I opted for the Uranium mostly because it was a large cigar (7×70) at a very reasonable price ($7 and change).

Uranium on a keyboard

The Uranium is a big one

Because the blend changes, I can’t be sure what I had in my hand. Near as I can tell from a Google search, it was probably some mix of Honduran, Nicaraguan, or Costa Rican tobaccos. It lit up easy and had a very smooth draw given the size. Whatever the mix, I enjoyed it.

Two-and-a-half hours later, the cigar was still going strong. I finished up my work on the laptop (wrapping the second short story in the The Pack series started with “Bravo Four”), got up, and walked around for a moment. The buzz hit me pretty good, then, and I realized I was flushed and sweating despite a cool breeze outside.

Well done, Foundry. Next time I’ll know to save this one for after a meal. At seven bucks, I’d say this cigar is a steal. I’ve also tried a cigar from their main line, the one that comes with a metal cog around the band, and I thought it was pretty great, too.

Foundry is going to be a line I need to explore in a little more depth before the Compounds, Elements & Musings line disappears. I can’t recommend the Uranium to a rookie, but for experienced smokers looking for some variety, give it a shot.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: CAO Flathead

When I visited my friend John’s man cave for the NFL championship games, he handed me a CAO Flathead cigar. The sheer size of the thing surprised me, and I took it as a challenge.

The Flathead 770, aka Big Block. 7″ long, 70 ring gauge.

I lit this cigar during the 1st quarter of the Seahawks game. Shortly after Richard Sherman’s post-game outburst about three hours later, I stubbed out the last inch-and-a-half or so to get back on the road. Amazing.

The cigar lit easy and drew fine, but one of the box-pressed sides would start to go out from time to time. I blame the ring gauge. It looked like a Maduro, but instead the Flathead sports a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. Inside we’ve got a Habano Connecticut binder and a mix of Nicaraguan and Piloto Cubano Ligero for the filler.

I’ll say now I’ve never had a Ligero I didn’t like, and the Flathead is no exception. I truly enjoyed those three hours with this monster, and when I saw Flathead 660 “Carb” in a local liquor store’s humidor this past weekend, I thought I would try to repeat the experience.

I found the 660 sported the same smooth taste, the same draw and sturdy construction, but did not have as many lighting problems. Of course, it didn’t last quite as long, either, but it was still a damn fine smoke in its own right.

Ligero fans, put this one on your must-try list. Highly recommended.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: A Cigar Ramble

“Dad, why do you do things that are bad for you?”

The middle son asked me that as I walked out of a local liquor store with a fistful of cigars. It’s a fair question, and a reasonable one for a nine year old to throw at his old man. It prompted a conversation on vice and moderation. This brought on several follow-up questions from the eleven year old, an active participant in his school’s D.A.R.E. program.

Kids aren’t stupid. I answered them straight: “Yep, they’re bad for me, but I like ‘em.”

Cigar aficionados can debate the finer points of the chemical content and additives in cigarettes versus cigars, or the differences between puffing and inhaling, but when it comes down to it, there will always be a risk involved in lighting something on fire and taking in the smoke.

Thus, moderation.

Of course, binging on them kind of kills the idea of moderation. I’d been a good boy most of the summer, but after vacation I set out on a mission to burn through the contents of my humidor. I’m pretty sure my doctor would punch me in the face if he knew how many I’d gone through.

But, hey. Stress. And a powerful need to get some writing done.

I did a piss-poor job of keeping track of them or keeping the cigar bands, so I don’t recall what I had. I know two were Tatuaje Little Monsters, both of which were quite good, but the details escape me. The writing needed to be focused on some short work and a comic script, so I didn’t set aside the time for Smoke Blog entries.

I can tell you, however, the Partagas 1845 I smoked tonight blew me away, right from the light. Hints of cocoa on the wrapper, a smooth draw, thick smoke with leathery note, and solid construction all combined for a blissful, relaxing experience. The cigar dude at Friar Tuck assured me I’d enjoy it, and he was dead on.

I needed it. This is the busiest time of year at the day gig, and I’ve been non-stop for a week and a half now. Some weekend work and a lot of time doing extra tasks from home, combined with vendor phone system issues and construction setting me back even more, has had me on edge. I haven’t been able to get to karate class or do my home workouts, much less write.

The Partagas, a glass of Four Roses bourbon & soda, and some mindless browsing through paper notebooks and notebook reviews proved a great way to unwind.

And that, kids, is why some bad things are also good for me.

In moderation.

Now my humidor sits empty on my desk. I’m going to need a box of something to refill it, but I may need to sell some books first. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: Montecristo Social Club

When I got my first invite to the Montecristo Social Club, I assumed they were trying to sell me something.

When I got my second a short time later, and I saw they were offering a free punch just for signing up, I thought, “Hey, I can use a new punch.” It appeared they were simply building a social network for cigar smokers, so I decided I’d sign up and poke around.

My Montecristo Social Club membership box. Nice!

Quite a package for a freebie item

The club key and punch, it turns out, is not some cheap, plastic trinket, but a nice, solid, metal key with a cigar punch hidden in the barrel. It has some real heft to it, it has a small ring to attach to a keyring or lanyard, and it looks good to boot. It also came packed in a snazzy box emblazoned with the Montecristo Social Club logo.

Impressive! You don’t normally see freebies like this.

The Club site itself is interesting. I created an account, and there are groups, friend requests, and messages, similar to what one would see on most social sites. There is also a humidor section, so users can share what they have in stock, and there’s an ashtray connected to it so users can share what they’ve smoked recently (complete with a brief review). There are also articles, ranging from cigar brands and cigar education to things like drinks, technology, and travel. Most are brief, similar to the content in a men’s magazine or similar online venue.

I’m assuming I got an invite based on my Twitter and Smoke Blog reviews, but if someone else invited me, thanks! Time will tell if I’ll spend a lot of time in there, but given I’m already a fan of most Altadis brands, they just ensured my next humidor restock will include some Romeo y Julietas.

And now I regret not working harder to figure out how to get a Twitter-like cigar smokers’ network off the ground.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: Rethinking Cameroon

I’d pretty well given up on cigars made with Cameroon tobacco. When I discovered a Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Cameroon in my humidor (it came with a gift package), I considered handing it off to one of my friends. However, the HdM line rarely disappoints, and my momma taught me people deserve second chances, so I gave it a shot.

I enjoyed it more than I expected. Though it has a Cameroon wrapper, the binder is the lighter Connecticut Shade and its filler is a mix of Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan leaves. In short, this thing has gone around most of the tobacco-growing world, so it had a lot happening. Different flavors, different textures, it was tough to pin down. HdM did not disappoint, though, and while it’s not as good as the Dark Knight, it stands up to the label.

I often describe Cameroon as a “dirty” flavor. Not so much like dirt, but it has a clingy, tangy quality that I can’t quite wrap my palate around. I caught a taste of it, and again, while I didn’t dislike it, I’m not sure it’s something I’ll readily stock my humidor with.

At least, not yet. It raises the point that maybe I need to try a few others. The benefit of having a rotating humidor stock is I have the freedom to experiment. A friend of mine tells me the Nub Cameroon is great, and they’re another brand I trust. Maybe I’ll track one of those down next.

If I still dislike it, hey, no harm done. I’d just hate to miss out on some quality smokes due to one bad experience.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: A Couple of Big Ones

The humidor’s environment is finally under control. Hells yes. Last check, 77 degrees and 74% humidity. It took a couple of reseasonings, but the results were worth the minimal effort. \m/

(Is “reseasoning” a word? It is now.)

I burned through two sticks this week while getting some work done, and both times I opted for some of the larger smokes in the humidor. The main motivation was to stay busy longer, but I also felt they were less likely to be affected by the period of time the humidor was out of whack.

First up was the Macanudo Cru Royale. When I first lit it up, I was not impressed. It was very harsh and hot. However, this is possibly due to the dry environment in the humidor before I got it fixed, as it quickly mellowed into a fine smoke. Loaded with hints of leather, it smoked clean and easy. Not a remarkable smoke for my palate, but it paired well with the Boulevard Smokestack Series IPA (Double-Wide IPA, in fact) I was drinking. If you’re a Macanudo fan and prefer a medium- or full-bodied cigar, pick one up.

Last night I opted for a CAO Gold series maduro. This Churchill (I believe) stayed with me a good two hours. Very impressive. Not my go-to flavor preference, but I enjoyed it. Sturdy, easy to hold, lots of smoke to play with. A hint of cocoa in the beginning, then that hefty maduro profile took over. Near the end it picked up in heat and needed to be touched up with the lighter a few times, but not enough to kill the cigar. Alongside some Four Roses Yellow bourbon, it made for a very pleasant experience as I punched the keyboard.

For those wondering how I’ve managed to get so much variety in these Smoke Blog entries, I have two explanations: 1) my wallet; 2) my cousin Mark.

I like to experiment, and because I don’t always have the cash to drop on a full box, I pick up a stick or two at a time. The rotating stock in the limited cigar selections in Peoria then makes it easy to try different things. Sometimes this bites me in the ass, but more often than not I’m able to pick out reputable brands and some pleasant surprises.

Most of my stock right now, though, is courtesy of my cousin. Twice now he’s sent me a variety of cigars to try, typically to celebrate finishing a project. He also once rounded up a bunch of guys on a forum to restock my my humidor when it ran dry. It’s been great for the blog, for the productivity, and for the general enjoyment of the smoke. Thanks again, Mark! I hope to return the favor sometime soon.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: Montecristo Chicago

Remember that thing I said about Friar Tuck dudes not knowing anything about their cigars? Friday night, I may have run into the guy who at least pays attention. I was debating between two smokes, and the Montecristo Chicago’s price tag ($13+) pushed me the other direction. However, the guy told me, “You won’t be able to get that one for long.”

The Chicago is part of Montecristo’s Connoisseur Edition series, and they’re making unique blends for big cities like New York, Chicago, Vegas, and Philly. And they’re only available in their named markets for a limited time.

Fair enough, then. Sold.

Tonight's cigar: the Montecristo Chicago

I kind of dig the wrapper and logo, too.

Now, I love Chicago. I’m not exactly a world traveler, but having visited LA, San Francisco, St Louis, Seattle, and Denver, and despite falling more and more in love with Peoria, I still put Chicago on top of the list. If someone’s going to call their product or business Chicago anything, they’ve set the bar pretty high for themselves.

Fortunately, Montecristo delivers.

The Chicago is a 6×50 Toro made with an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and Dominican filler. It’s luscious. Medium body, plenty of flavor but very mellow from puff to finish. No spice or tang, nor any other overpowering, obvious note. It tastes . . . well, it tastes like a cigar, damn it! It’s got a gentle buzz and lots of smoke, draws easy, and holds together well. I enjoyed it so much I had to force myself to slow down, and I smoked it right down to my knuckles.

Friar Tuck only had a box of 10, so I will have to get back there and get another before they’re gone. If your city has its own blend, get thee to a cigar store.

On a separate, cigar-related note, I want to thank XIKAR for their awesome warranty and service. I bought a fairly basic XIKAR butane lighter a few years ago, and I’ve been having some trouble with it. It’s just a $30ish lighter, but rather than toss it I decided to send it in.

A week later, a brand new lighter arrived.

My replacement lighter arrived!

Pretty little thing, ain’t it?

Functionally, it’s a night-and-day difference. The jet works so much better, and I don’t have to crank it up to full blast to get it to work. It stays lit, and it lights my cigar a lot faster. When I’m ready to invest in a new one with a punch, it will definitely be a XIKAR. Their humidor supplies work well for me, too.

In contrast, I used to have a hand-me-down of another popular brand. They charged me $30 to repair it, and even then I had the exact same problem after one refill. Never again.

Thanks, XIKAR. You guys rock.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: Revolution

Gotta love it when the cigar guy at a store doesn’t know a thing about the cigars he sells.

I went to a Friar Tuck, a large liquor store which carries a wide variety of spirits and related offerings. They don’t have a proper walk-in humidor, but they do have a humidified display cabinet with a modest selection. The Peoria location usually has Punch, Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta, and a rotating selection of other brands, so in a pinch I’m happy to shop there.

This time I spotted the Revolution, a brand I hadn’t heard of before. I like trying new brands and the price was right, so when the cigar guy came over with his key, I asked him, “What can you tell me about the Revolution?”

Revolution

The flattened face of the Revolution cigar

“It’s good!” he said.

I gave him a moment, he said nothing more. “Do you know what kind of tobacco it’s made with?”

“Uhhhh…”

Swell.

Then he says, “It’s got a medium body?”

Argh. The wrapper looked a bit dark for that, but he clearly had no idea.

There’s another chain liquor store in the Chicago area called Binny’s. They have full, walk-in humidors and they hire people who actually know cigars to manage them. If Friar Tuck can’t do all that, fine, but why not at least post similar display tags as Binny’s? Something with a description, the blend, maybe even cigar ratings from popular review sources like Cigar Aficionado?

So I bought four anyway. I’m an adventurous guy, and two of the three friends I was shopping for aren’t all that concerned about brand and blend.

Tonight's writing setup

How to make the magic happen

I’ve since learned the Revolution is part of the Altadis Te-Amo brand from Mexico, and it’s made with a blend of Nicaraguan and San Andres tobaccos, primarily Corojo. It’s box-pressed, but it’s more of an flattened oval than square, and is labeled “Ovalado.” It has a sturdy feel and a slight coarseness to the wrapper.

I smoked two before writing this review: one while hanging out with friends and one while doing some writing. I used a simple punch cutter on the first and had a difficult draw. With the second I did two overlapping punches to create a wider hole, and this worked much better. (I didn’t know if it would hold together after a scissor cut, and I don’t have a V cutter right now.) Both lost their oval shape as I smoked, which I thought was odd, but it didn’t affect the smoking experience.

The Revolution is stronger than medium, but I wouldn’t call it a full-bodied smoke like a maduro. It had a bold, spicy flavor without being harsh or peppery. Both sticks burned clean and even despite the draw of the first cigar, producing plenty of rich smoke and leaving a fine, sturdy ash.

All in all a good smoke, and because my friends selected something else out of another humidor, I still have two more. They’ll pair nicely with the remaining Boulevard craft beers in my fridge as I write this weekend.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: Kicking Off the Season

It took until April, but I finally got out to the porch with a cigar.

Breaking the porch chair back in with a RyJ Lonsdale #cigar

Just a short one to kick things off

It’s finally the season where I’ll be able to sit outside with a cigar and the laptop or iPad and get some real work done. I find it’s a lot less distracting that way, and I stay more focused. In my office, it’s far too easy to get distracted by web surfing and finding other things to read.

As for the cigar, the Romeo y Julieta 1875 lonsdale is a decent little smoke. It’s a Sumatra wrapper, near as I can tell from a quick Google search, and I think the small size and tight draw made it burn a little hotter and harsher than I normally prefer. Its larger cousins from the Reserva Real line tend to be a lot smoother and more enjoyable, but I didn’t have an hour to kill smoking a toro or corona tonight.

That’s not unusual for a lonsdale, in my opinion. The size is designed for a quick smoke, something for when I’m in a hurry, or for when I’m working in the yard or washing the motorcycle. A good friend preferred them while on duty as an EMT because he had a much better chance of finishing between calls and didn’t feel bad if he had to chuck it when a call came in.

There are storms on the horizon for this week. After that, we have some nice weather again. Here’s looking forward to a productive Spring and Summer.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Vice

Yep, I’m going to do Photo Friday again. I’m stubborn like that.

Vice

Every man has to have a couple of vices lest he go insane

I kicked off the New Year with my friend Mark, who also happens to be a distant cousin by marriage, a fellow cigar aficionado, and a fan of many of the same books and movies I enjoy. We went into town for some barbecue, then hit a local watering hole with a heated, cigar-friendly beer garden. He gifted me the fine cigars you see with that glass of Jameson above.

Last year, I shot 36 weeks’ worth of Photo Friday entries. This year, I’m aiming for at least 40. Yes, all 52 would be better, but it’s not worth beating myself up over it. I have gotten better at carrying my camera in my messenger bag, even if I haven’t actually pulled it out for a while (barring family events), so that will help. Now it’s just a matter of keeping my eyes open and, ideally, getting out and about a little more.

Semper Fi

Semper Fi: Mark is also a Marine veteran

To that end, I’m working on a side photography project. This will be a simple one using my Android phone, which I have on me all the time. The damned thing is like a leash, so I may as well put it to use.

I’m still working out how simple or complex I want it to be, but you’ll see more of it on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr than you’ll see here. Feel free to hunt me down on any or all of those services.

And do feel free to send comments my way. I’m doing this for fun, but I’m also looking to improve my game.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: Kinky Friedman Big Richard

Put a selection of cigars in front of me and more often than not I’ll grab something I’ve never heard of before. Yesterday, that cigar was Kinky Friedman’s Big Richard.

The Kinky Friedman Big Richard and a Jameson for the New Year.

Mr Friedman and Mr Jameson made for good company

My friend Mark came to town to hang out and catch up, and he brought a huge bag of cigars he had picked up at a herf. The Kinky Friedman smoke was the standout, so I clipped it and lit up.

I don’t know the blend on this one, but I did enjoy it. Solid build, clean burn, tight ash and copious smoke with a fine finish. There was nothing to set it above most premium cigars, though. Nothing to make me say, “Wow, I need more of these.” For a casual smoker, or something to keep to pass around to visitors, however, it would do just fine.

I may also have discovered a new place to do some writing. The bar we visited has an enclosed, heated beer garden, and most nights I show up, the place is packed and noisy. We arrived in the early afternoon, however, and found only a few people watching college football and another guy enjoying a cigar. Even better, it was nice and quiet. I could easily set up the iPad and get some work done with a cigar there.

Score.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: My UZI Weighs a Ton

I griped about a crummy day a couple of weeks back, and Qweequeg stepped up with an offer to send me a few cigars. Who can turn down an offer like that? Her care package arrived by the end of the week.

Care package from @Qweequeg. Sweet! Thanks!

The Rugrats enjoyed the bonus dinosaurs

 

How cool is that?

I started with the My UZI Weighs a Ton last weekend. I’d heard of the brand, but I had never seen one before. With a little surfing I learned it’s a collaboration between Drew Estate and Joya de Nicaragua, and it’s billed as a medium- or full-bodied cigar on various sites. Opinions seem to differ on the exact tobaccos that make up the cigar, but hints of ligero in the filler caught my eye. I have yet to be let down by a ligero blend.

On first cut, I wasn’t pleased with the draw. I used my knife to poke a cross into the packed tobacco, which freed it up some. I lit up, and the problems ended there.

This, my friends, is a good smoke. Its firm construction held its ash. It burned slow and smooth, and it took me to closing time at a local watering hole. I’d put it in the medium range, with silky smoke and notes of leather. I smoked it down to the last inch or so before the bar staff kicked us out, and it never turned hot or bitter.

Collaboration or not, Jonathan Drew has done it again. The man just knows what he’s doing. Thanks again to Qweequeg for turning me onto this smoke! I look forward to trying another soon.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.