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  1. The Fonseca mark is really an insider’s game. Most casual smokers will mistake it for its domestic cousin. Most who seek Cuban cigars either casually or early will shy away. Unsure. What is that? Can I be confident smoking...what is that? It’s not a Cohiba or an R and J. Not a Monte. What is a Fonseca? What is the Cosaco? Fonsecas are the season inside baseball smoke. Quality is terrific and value off the charts. I regularly smoke the #1 and am never disappointed. The cigars themselves are so unique in spirit, size and how they come to you. First: there’s no band. You peel that off (or if you’re me, you invert the dress tissue off like a ghost being banished by) and it’s in a dress box, each one wrapped in white tissue. The size is also odd here. The better known #1 is one of the most elegant Lonsdales you’ll ever hold. This is smaller. Between a corona and mareva I am told. I have no idea what the latter is but it’s bigger. This cigar is fresh. Hints of flowers, mild cocoa with leather being prominent early. Second third gets peppery with strength building. White pepper, edge of an herbaceous feel. Like parsley or chervil (that hint of anise). Last third is more power but still on the easier side if medium. The Cosaco is really like knowing how to bet craps, like knowing how an old clutch feathers. This cigar and you’re having it in your stash is like knowing great suit jackets have working buttons and yours doesn’t too. No one else needs to know. You do. You know how to nod at a stranger at the bar. How to make a fire. What it’s like to look off a safety or when to pull a steak. This smoke is excellent. But part of the experience is knowing you’re smoking a thing most pass by. Hardly know. And you can just hand one to a bud and know your just showed them the door to the inside. Now they’re in. And a smoke between friends becomes a smile and nod. We know.
  2. Orson Welles and Partagas Series D No. 4 Welles was and is our l’enfant terrible, the boy genius who once called Hollywood— and a film studio more particularly, ‘the greatest electric train set any boy could ever have.’ He created so much of what the highest American Art is and was. His Julius Caesar held in Harlem starring black actors he trained is still considered by many the greatest Shakespeare ever done in the new world. He invented what we call modern filmmaking, his theater and film companies delivered the greatest talents of their age. He was the greatest American filmmaker of all time (at least arguably and if you take issue with that, you haven’t done the homework) at age 24. He was and is still one of— and arguably THE— greatest filmmakers in world history. He bit the big hand that fed the biz. He paid a gigantic price. His art suffered forever from Hearst on but he soldiered on. And that’s what matters. Large, obese, who cares the man had ideas still. Mr Arkadin is immortal. He was and is a giant inspiration to me and my life. One of my most stunning moments ever in my life was when Sam Raimi said I reminded him of Welles. Well maybe the cheeks, I conceded. The man who said the makeup department worked harder to make him handsome than to make him old in Kane. Ah Kane. Immortal that too. Partagas Series D No. 4 This is one of the most amazing produced cigars from Cuba and fairly ubiquitous— where Cubans are sold. The variance in quality can be surprising with many very rewarding examples well made, beautifully blended and aging well. There are also substandard sticks. Bad blends, poor construction. Uneven smoking flavor. You name it. Hecho a mano. Every single D4. The example here, from 2015, is like a steak at a high quality steak house. Seared at high temperature, mahogany in color. Fat rendered. Served warm, medium rare. A delight. And you are well cared for. A D4 smokes on the lighter side of medium and draws up to a medium by the end. Its key is balance. Like a well sprung racket or a humming V6. All the spiciness and richness of hard woods, some baking spices— all of it is sitting in balanced relationship to the whole. It’s refined and gently ramps flavor. A lovely wrapper and this was a flawless example in construction and draw throughout. Some cocoa content toward the end. White pepper at times all smoke long. Finished without turning viciously strong. This was a delight.
  3. It was incredibly disappointing. And it wasn’t fair to the cigar to really review it
  4. Partagas Series 1 LE This review has to be an abort. I cannot actually discuss the cigar in much length because the example smoked so poorly. It was well cared for and seemed in tip top shape. However, the cigar was odd from the start: it lit unevenly and didn’t sustain a burn. Problematic lighting led to poor burning and then, the dreaded canoe action where one half of the cigar burns far faster and ashes away exposing a long glowing coal that still hasn’t burned the other half and the wrapper is well retarded on the remaining half. Flavors that were apparent included some nice woods, earthiness. I will say, though it cannot typify the cigar as the smoking experience was so poor, that it tastes more like a domestic dark cigar than a cuban. The funk, what folks call twang or barnyard funk (for our wine aficionados) seemed absent. Again, this can’t qualify as a review, just an aborted and sub-optimal experience. Note: the far greater canoeing experience happened after the second photo but one can clearly see that it has begun here As we all, know, Hecho a Manos. These aren’t machine made widgets; there will be errors. That said, I look forward to trying this again when I can lay my hands on one. narrative version: If you had worked a hard day, got into your car and were about to have a great night out, and then you got the call: you have to ditch your plans and head back in to head off a work emergency.
  5. If there was an old west gunfighter who carried his gun in a leather holster and that gun was only ever drawn justly and fired against the malevolent, of that gun was named cosimo and that gun was always in its holster. If you smelled that holster, you would know the smell of a good box of Connie ones. This robusto opens with a classic hay and grassy feel. It’s a classic Cuban opening for a fairly refined smoke. It’s mild and in the best way. Gentle, it unfolds like a piece of perfectly made old world lace. Cream, spice box but not like you’re making cinnamon rolls. Vanilla. Roasted nuts. As that lace unfolds, the middle gets a touch stronger and there’s an assertion of leather. It’s never pushing you, just gently moving you along. Precisely. Smoke production is good but nothing remarkable. Mouthfeel is actually noticeably pleasant. Mild but beautifully so. With some fade in the last third, it’s a gentleman/woman throughout. Just like that gunman. No less lethal. But an honorable smoke. Mine was a BRE AGO 17. I had it with a tepid water.
  6. JL #2 has had some real fans on here (including the Presidente) and I've also heard chatter from folks who dislike it. I lit it knowing it had the requisite lie down in the humidor to even be worth trying and I gave it some room. This cigar, for those unfamiliar, is on the rustic end of Cubans. This isn't your Trinidads, Cohibas. This is a rougher and punchier experience. While other marks are the Mercedes, the Lexuses and the Maybachs, this is a Camaro. A rebuilt Dodge with the bench seat. It has tons of flavor and a lot of good smoke, nice aromas and strength. But none of that is tuned; it's like Clemenza says of the gun he hands Michael in The Godfather: I left it loud to scare any pain-in-the-ass innocent bystanders. This is that cigar. It's deep and dark as bass in that dance club. the aromas are leather and graphite, wood and some fruit but not a ton. Roasted Nuts and a savory flavor which I attribute to the cigar still being young and having all its elements still overlapping and powerful. The first third is strong and it's pushing you to taste it all. It mellows (as one's palate gets a bit used to it) in the second third, still gets deeper in some ways and the element of Creaminess (which to me is a slight lactic acid note, sweetness and a full smoke mouthfeel) takes over. It's a pleasure to smoke but it's not a refined cigar for those who can't take the boxer in this stick, they will be put off. The last third gains power and flavor starts to go. The last notes were coffee and a smokey, pleasant finish. I drank a Manhattan derivative. Sweetness and round flavors in its balance aided me in tasting the second third as the cigar got creamy.
  7. Diplomatico number two TOS 2016. A fine example of the product. Good wrapper consistent coloring, unlit: terrific aroma of Nuts and warm wood. First light: a light and gentle flavor. Almonds, macadamia. Buttery, nutty flavors. Good smoke production. Example smoked very evenly for the first third. Second third: strength picking up. Denser smoke. Buttery nut flavor giving way to something more like smokehouse almonds. Deeper and the strength rounds it out as a real medium now. Hints of brine and gentle bitterness. Last third: medium continues and gets no stronger. Full smoke production now and most of the nutty flavors are smoky and darker. There’s a longer, lingering taste of bakers cocoa and a slight astringency. This is a classic for a reason: delicious and thoroughly enjoyable. With more time, it’s a smoke for chocolate cake or after dinner coffee.
  8. Clean cut, cold draw was perfect. Nose was, as expected, cedar and slight cherry note that would be more apparent later. Wrapper a milk chocolate color without any heavy veination. Light was even and produced good smoke on ignition. First third was light to medium. Flavor of cedar present throughout, elegant smokiness and growing cherry. Fruitwood. Creaminess or the notion of it is the mouthfeel of full smoke here and some mild lactic acid notes on the mid tongue and back of the throat. For a cigar just two years from production, I found it very well balanced. Second third: growing strength to real medium. Flavors of cherry and the aromas of raw, kilned cherry wood. Slight bitterness did creep into the aftertaste here. Last third: The subtler notes of other fruitwood are gone. Cherry lingering but cedar and more cedar. Still clean and medium. Hints here of something else— fleeting bursts of vanilla cream. Pastry cream maybe. Might be great in the future as it further mellows with a dessert of strudel mit schlag. A nice and smoky finish. Overall, a real pleasure. Clean, mostly medium and a nice balance of fruitwoods that fade to that clear and ringing cedar base that goes from start to finish.
  9. You, sir, are too kind! Looking forward to hanging with you again.
  10. This is tough given there’s so little to judge but, looking deeply at the tobacco leaves in my cutter I come up with 559/619/729
  11. So great to meet you and we had a good time hanging here. LA is an awesome town; I'm biased because I'm from here, but I adore it. It's all about the people and making connections and in this case, a terrific one from the antipodes. Hope your trip is terrific and come see us again. And we will smoke some fine ones. Dileep

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