Tag Archive for smoke blog

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: 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: 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: 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.

Smoke Blog: Game

When I ran out of cigars last week, my man Mark sent me a little care package:

Care Package

Yeah, this will do nicely!

The two on the right stand out? Yeah, they did for me, too. I wasn’t familiar with Game cigars before this point, but a quick Google search told me they’re machine-made, flavored cigars. White Grape and Wine seemed like odd choices for cigar flavors, but because flavored cigars can contaminate a humidor, I started with them.

Despite their labels, though, both tasted the same: a sweet, creamy, almost vanilla flavor. They burned quick—a consequence of the machine process—and grew hot near the end, and the ash crumbled easy. They’re a step up from, say, Swisher Sweets, but are still better suited to gas stations and convenience stores than premium cigar shops.

Anyone looking for a flavored cigar should stick to the good stuff: Drew Estate’s ACID line. The ACIDs are rolled like any other cigar and have their own blends, and they have four flavor ranges in a variety of flavors from sweet and gentle to bold and spicy. Drew Estate’s Ambrosia and Sauza Tequila cigars are also good smokes, with the Ambrosia being a bit lighter and sweeter and the Sauza Tequila having a more subtle flavor.

More importantly, though, the Game cigars did their job in letting me get some work done. It doesn’t matter much what the cigar tastes like, as long as the fingers are flying across the keyboard.

Mission accomplished, Mark!

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: The Last Stick

Down to the last cigar in the humidor last night, so I made it a good one: Tatuaje’s The Wolfman.

Making the Magic Happen

The only way to write

I took my time and enjoyed it while working on rewrites for a short story. As expected, a great cigar right down to the knuckles. Excellent flavor, easy draw, lots of smoke… just a good, all-around experience.

I’ve emptied the humidor to re-season it, but now that the grocery getter’s transmission needs an overhaul, I won’t be able to restock for a bit. It’s going to feel very different sitting out there tonight without a cigar in hand.

Sad panda.

Sad Panda

How will Mikey make the magic happen now?

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: Writing Outside

Tonight’s cigar, the Tatuaje “The Face” special edition, was every bit as good as I remembered from the first time I had one: magic right down to the nub. I need to invest in some of their regular lines.

I might have to do so soon, too. This is one of the last two cigars in my humidor. I’m going to empty it out so I can re-season it in an attempt to solve some humidity problems I’ve been having.

Tonight also reminded me how much I love writing outdoors.

I get some of my best work done at night, sitting on the porch with a cigar. The family has gone to bed, the neighborhood is quiet, and everything I need to accomplish during the day is done and behind me. I can get up and pace the porch or wander the yard to mull over a sentence, and I can get comfortable without feeling chained to a desk.

I’m trying to adapt my schedule to do this more often. The words come a lot easier at these times. I hate to go to bed now, but the day job calls in the morning. These are the nights I’m confident I can pull off a full-time writing schedule once all these projects come to fruition and they start paying the bills.

The schedule is a bit off and there’s some changes in direction, but the Exit Strategy is still in full swing.

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: Davidoff Special R

I have yet to meet a Davidoff I didn’t like.

Tonight: the Davidoff Special R.

Davidoff Special R

This cigar came in a three-stick boxed set I received as a Christmas gift, so I’ve been sitting on it a while. I really needed a cigar Saturday night, and a good one, so I picked this one.

I didn’t think a lot about the flavor as I had a lot of other things on my mind. I remember it being medium-bodied, clean in taste, with maybe a little leather. I remember it not tunneling despite the wind coming right into my face, and in fact it still had a nice, conical cherry every time I tapped its ash (it’s as pleasant as it sounds dirty).

It was the right cigar at the right time, just as a premium brand like Davidoff should be. I just wish they were easier to come by around here, as I only have one left in the box.

I wonder what tonight’s weather is supposed to be like…

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: Perdomo Gran Cru

Nothing cures a crap day like a good cigar.

Perdomo: cure for a crap day.

So I used a photo filter. The lighting sucked.

The Perdomo Grand Cru is a Cuban seed blend, and judging by the size and color of this bad boy it was a Grand Epicure (vs Churchill, etc.) with a natural wrapper. The moment I went to light it I tasted hints of cocoa, and it burned clean and even with plenty of smoke and a mild flavor.

It had a strange, thorny lump under the cap, probably a twist in a leaf or a stem, which felt uncomfortable on occasion but didn’t ruin the experience by a long shot. I spent about an hour and a half with it, until it went out on its own in the last two inches. While it did not turn harsh, I could see it had tunneled some and was probably done, so I tossed it.

But honestly, a lot of that didn’t matter today. I just needed to sit and relax.

The day job has been kicking my ass since early last week, including over the weekend, making it tough to get anything else done. I could easily have spent a big portion of Saturday there if I hadn’t already had plans for the annual Peoria Jaycees Beer Fest. It was a good chance to go out on the porch, kick back, and flip through a Harley-Davidson catalog I had picked up at the International Motorcycle Show in February.

Edits are back in my hands for Lie with the Dead, the cover for an upcoming anthology showed up in my inbox this afternoon, and I’ve got a screenplay to finish, as well as a handful of other projects waiting in the wings. Just a few more days of this testing nonsense at the day gig and I’ll be able to get back on track and re-examine the exit strategy.

I can almost taste the freedom.

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: Tatuaje “The Face”

When my cousin got a lead on a special edition Halloween cigar named after Leatherface, I was in. I didn’t get to smoke it until earlier this week, and boy was I sorry I waited so long.

“The Face” is Tatuaje’s 3rd Monster Series limited release cigar and is composed of Nicaraguan tobacco with a Mexican wrapper. Its 56 ring gauge gives it a fat appearance, just like its namesake.

Leatherface

Smoke up!

Given it was a special smoke, I didn’t want it to be dried out due to some  humidor issues I had during the winter, so once that was resolved I let it sit and cure and rehumidify itself. I took it out last week while I wrote on the front porch, accompanied by some spiced rum.

Wow did I love this smoke. It was heady and spicy, but it didn’t linger on the tongue. It burned clean, drew easy, and produced thick clouds of smoke. Even better, it lasted for hours, well worth the approx. $20 price tag (including shipping). It’s about as close to a perfect 10 cigar as I’ve come in a long, long time.

I’ve never seen Tatuaje cigars in a shop, but I’m thinking I may have to keep an eye out for them. If their standard lines are anywhere near this quality, then these guys really know what they’re doing. I’m sorry I missed The Drac, a Nicaraguan smoke with a Maduro wrapper. I don’t know if I missed this year’s entry or it hasn’t been announced yet; there’s a “Boris” listed with no info but “no longer in production” on its page.

I’ll be having something else tonight. Now that I’ve written this, and recalled how well The Face went, I hope I haven’t set myself up for disappointment.

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: Rocky Patel The Edge

Of course this was a good smoke. Come on, it’s a Rocky Patel.

The Edge apparently comes in two different wrappers, and I had the Corojo wrapper. This surprised me, as I don’t normally dig on the Corojo. It’s just a personal flavor preference. This cigar had a nice, bold smoke that didn’t overwhelm the palate. A good draw, an even burn, solid construction, just an all-around good smoke. It did turn a bit harsh near the end, as it didn’t react well to my relights. However, given this isn’t normal cigar-smoking behavior, I can’t fault the maker for that one.

Besides, relights for me are a good sign: it means I’m too into what I’m writing to take my fingers off the keyboard for a puff on the cigar.

There are only three smokes in my humidor left: a Gurkha Black Beauty and a Padron from my publisher, and a Tatuaje The Face special edition cigar I purchased on a special buy from my cousin. I look forward to all three, and I’ll have to save one to celebrate the finish of Lie with the Dead, but this is not good. Time to start shopping for box deals or to hit a shop with a good humidor and pick up some variety again.

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.