Tag Archive for xikar

Smoke Blog: Xikar HC Connecticut

It’s Summer at last! It’s been a long year at the day gig, but though I’ll continue to work through the Summer, things will get a lot easier and I have vacation days to burn before our year rolls over on July 1st.

Summer also means I can sit outside and have a cigar more often, and I’ll have more time to get back to the Smoke Blog entries. I’ve been scouting Cigars International for some great deals to get the humidor stocked, and I started with a killer deal on five different five-packs of cigars. They arrived just in time for the weekend.

I chose to start with the Xikar HC Series Connecticut, a mild-medium blend presumably put together by the same company behind my favorite lighters and humidor gear. They replaced my lighter under their lifetime warranty, so the least I could do is check out their smokes. There are several blends available under the Havana Club label, but the light Connecticut got the nod because I wanted a good range of flavors and strengths in the humidor.

I’ve had two already (it’s been a busy weekend), and I’d call them good but unremarkable. On the plus side, they were both smooth and consistent. They lit easy with no sign of tunneling or canoeing, even in a gentle breeze one night. I loved the clean draw all the way through, and their ash held firm. Definitely a solid, well-constructed cigar.

CI’s info page says these are made with a variety of tobaccos including Costa Rican, Mexican and Nicaraguan fillers with a Sumatran binder. Their name comes from the Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. The combination results in a pleasant enough taste, but there’s nothing that really stood out for me. Just fine for hanging out with friends and talking or watching the fights at our local haunts.

Definitely worth the bundled price I paid, but perhaps not something I would seek out on its own. They’re a cigar I could easily hand off to a friend to enjoy, especially one who prefers lighter flavors and isn’t all that picky. Got a friend into White Owls and gas station smokes? This will make a nice transition to the good stuff for them.

That all said, the HC Connecticut certainly doesn’t turn me off of their line. This is no throwaway smoke, so I’m curious about their other labels, especially the White Shade Grown. Xikar’s/CI’s price point makes them a very attractive deal, especially in mixed bundles. It’s a brand to keep an eye out for when I look for one-off smokes at local shops.

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: La Aurora

I sat out with a smoke to do some writing the other night, this time a La Aurora 107 that has been sitting in the humidor for a while. Billed as a medium-to-full body cigar, it boasted a subtly marbled, brown Sun Grown Ecuadorian wrapper and a rich scent. The lion on the wrapper caught my eye, and the cigar shop manager recommended the brand.

I hate to admit I was a bit distracted while smoking this one, as I was rapid fire on the keyboard and banged out most of a chapter while smoking. However, this is a good thing; a sour or overpowering cigar would have been a distraction. I do recall a bit of spice in the flavor, and I would place it more toward the medium side of the strength spectrum. I chalked up re-lighting to the windy evening, and otherwise had no troubles with this fine cigar.

If I spot it in a local humidor, I will definitely grab another.

In a separate note, I finally bit the bullet and picked up some propylene glycol to manage my humidor. I’ve been sticking with distilled water and the standard humidifier pucks, and I still have the gallon of water I purchased a few years ago. However, I’ve been having a hard time managing the humidity level, especially during winter months, and I picked up a Xikar Crystal Jar.

The principle is simple: the crystals absorb moisture, then release it slowly to keep the humidity stable. I’ve had it for about 6 weeks, and it wasn’t until yesterday I had to pour more glycol solution into the jar. The humidification has remained stable through that time, too, without adding extra sponges or a shot glass of water.

I call that a win, and now wonder why I was so stubborn all this time. Sure, it’s a little more expensive, but worth it given I’m protecting some good cigars.

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: RyJ Reserva Real and Cigar Spike

This is my first cigar in weeks.

I bit the inside of my lip and had a nasty sore, so I’ve held off on the celebratory cigar for my Evileye Books announcement until I could be sure the smoke wouldn’t irritate or infect the wound. Now that it’s smoothed over again, I got my ass back out on the front porch and lit up a Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real. It only took a few puffs to remember why it’s one of my go-to smokes for casual smoking.

I’ve ranted about the joys of the RyJ plenty of times in the past, though, so this time I thought I’d concentrate on the Cigar Spike I used to pierce the end cap for smoking. I’m normally a punch guy, but in my experience, most of them don’t hold an edge and I sometimes feel like I’m about to break the cigar or I’ll compress the tobacco near the foot as I’m punching the hole. This is especially a problem when a cigar is a little too moist and the cap doesn’t cut as easily.

On those occasions I’ll turn to a cutter. I can’t say I’ve got much of a preference between the cutter and the punch other than a punch is more convenient to carry (I tend to use the coin pocket in my jeans for my lighter and cutting gear), so it’s not a big deal to switch back and forth. However, if the cap isn’t fixed properly, they may fall apart. I’ve also had problems with some cigars crushing before cutting, and often times I’ll get bits of tobacco in my mouth.

The Cigar Spike promised to solve all of these problems: they’re tiny and portable, there’s no knife edge to lose sharpness, and because they’re pushing a hole into the cap there are no bits of tobacco falling out. I was a bit skeptical, but for three bucks shipped, I decided to give it a shot. A few days later my three Cigar Spikes arrived.

They delivered on being tiny and portable. The small piece of smooth plastic fit into my pocket with ease, right up against my lighter. Because it’s not metal, there’s no danger of it scratching or scuffing my trusty Xikar lighter, either. The point is slightly rounded, so it won’t poke anything and there are no worries about it going dull. Time to put it to work.

It took no effort to push the Spike through the Reserva Real’s cap, which made me happy. No compression or excessive pushing to endanger the draw is a good thing. I took a test draw on the unlit cigar and it felt a little tough, so I pushed the Spike in again to widen the hole (just push in farther and the hole gets wider), then turned it ninety degrees and poked again. I didn’t get a plus sign some of the reviews mentioned, just a small, roundish hole a bit smaller than a punch would have made. The next test draw proved smoother and easier.

Satisfied that far, I left the punch and cutter inside and went out to light up. I will say the draw with a punch or cutter is a bit looser, but the spiked draw worked just fine. An hour into the cigar I had zero problems with the draw. I tend to bite the end from time to time, though, and a half hour later the draw got tougher. Another quick and effortless poke, though, and the draw was right back to the way it started.

All in all, I’m happy with the little guys. I look forward to trying them again with a few more smokes, and I’m going to give one to a local friend, a rookie smoker who just purchased his first box of Avos (after sampling a couple I gave him, natch). I’ll let you know how it goes in my next Smoke Blog entry.

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: Romeo y MacBook Pro

The Only Way to Write

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

I’ve often thought about taking a laptop out with me when I smoke, but the battery in my old Dell laptop is down to about 10 minutes of juice and I’ve gotten out of the habit. Yesterday it dawned on me I’ve got a shiny new MacBook Pro in my bag and I get over three hours on a charge, so I thought it might be worth trying again. I grabbed the laptop, my new Xikar lighter, and a Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real and headed out to the patio.

For starters, the cigar was excellent. I’m down to three Reals from last year’s box, and this cigar reassured me I made the right choice in purchasing another box of them on Friday. The creamy wrapper and full (yet smooth) flavor was a genuine pleasure, and I had no problem sitting with it for damn near two hours, smoking well past sundown. The finish on the Reals is very gentle, and this one left me with a heady buzz.

Even better, I got several hundred new words written on Top Secret Novella. I rewrote the opening yet again, and I think the story will be stronger for it. The cigar didn’t get in the way at all as I punched the keys, and I trusted the sturdy Real not to drop premature ash onto my keyboard.

I don’t feel the need to smoke a cigar every time I write, but it sure doesn’t seem to hurt me any. I’ll be trying it again in the future, I’m sure.

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.