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I've decided to post my 2016 Xmas Sampler Review in the Review Section for future reference purposes. It was originally posted in February this year in the 'Daily Smoke' thread... Cigars I've smoked lately... The 2016 Xmas Sampler (dedicated to our dear friend @Hurltim) Did you happen to pick up El Pres' 2016 Xmas Sampler? These cigars represent Rob's most consistent quality cigars for 2016. I smoked through these fine cigars during my January vacation time, on my own, watching sport, watching movies and sometimes in the fine company of some other dear fellow cigar enthusiasts. I promised Hurltim I'll review these when done, but as February is a busy month in Australian work life culture (as a result of everyone returning from leave en masse!), I've finally been able to find some time to share my findings! Firstly, below are the 13 cigars included... They are, from left to right, Diplomaticos Bushido, Diplomatico No.2, Bolivar Coronas Gigantes, Partagas Lusitanias, Montecristo No.1, Fonseca No.1, H.Upmann Magnum 56 LE 2015, Ramon Allones Club Allones LE 2015, Punch Punch, Bolivar Belicosos Finos, San Cristobal de La Habana La Fuerza, Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du Prince and Cohiba Robustos. My review will follow in chronological order... 1. Ramon Allones Club Allones LE 2015 (SOM Dic 15) I decided to start off with the 'powerhouses', the most full-bodied of the lot. I smoked this and the BBF watching the Boxing Day Cricket Test, which is traditionally Australia's most watched and attended event of the sporting summer. The Australian cricket captain, Steve Smith and leading bowler, Mitchell Starc were hitting runs aplenty on this day of the test, and it was exciting to watch Australia comeback to bowl Pakistan out and win the game. This cigar was so strong, much stronger than other RACA I've had. It had the traditional stewed profile that I enjoy in Ramon Allones, but the nicotine buzz of this wore me out by the late afternoon. 2. Bolivar Belicosos Finos (TOR May 16) So, by the time lit this in the early afternoon I was somewhat feeling a little drowsy, on account of the strong Ramon Allones Club Allones LE I had earlier and the warm weather of this particular Sydney afternoon. I thing I enjoy about BBF's are when they have an element of cream to them, alas, no such luck here. It had typical flavours associated with this vitola such as earthiness, leather, sour dough spine dipped in coffee and dark chocolate. Still, I hold hope for the next BBF I smoke! 3. H.Upmann Magnum 56 LE 2015 (MEG Mar 16) This is the special cigar I decided to have on New Year's Day this year. I made a Brandy Alexander for myself and my wife, and together with my standard long black espresso coffee, this cigar was one of the highlights of my summer! What can I say in regards to accolades about the H.Upmann Magnum 56? Smoke aplenty, mild chocolate (like all limited editions, eh?), toasted tobacco, licorice and so beautifully refined. Yes, I wish it wasn't 56 ring gauge, but I used my Credo 3-in-1 punch cutter again on this and 'sipped' it from the back. 95 minutes of pure joy and yes, I gladly nubbed it...look below! 4. Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du Prince (TOR Jun 16) When I smoked this on the 3rd of January, little did I know that I would be saying goodbye to a dear friend. Why, oh why did I not get more boxes? Oh well, I'll live with what I have and I'll try to get some more this year, if I can. Still, I'm in disbelief in regards to this fine cigar being deleted in 2017. Rob mentioned in his tasting notes the following,..cream, cedar, bitter cooking chocolate and black coffee. This description is about spot on for me. My recommendation for all Le Hoyo line HdM, is to age them. If you enjoy them young, try to smoke through half a box, and rest what's left for a minimum 5 years. That combination of cream and cedar, when aged, is just so ineffable. Some of you will know what I mean. 5. Punch Punch (ALO Mar 16) Did you get yourself a 50 cab of these recently? Well, I certainly hope you did. The Punch Punch will be around in 2018, but only in 25 dress boxes, there's something nostalgic about this in 50 cabs that this cigar deserves. Again, I very much enjoyed this, cream, leather, spice...just Punch at its finest, and how surprised was I on account of its youthfulness? I wish there were two of these in the sampler! 6. Diplomaticos No.2 (TOS Mar 16) This was the very best of all the cigars I smoked from the Xmas Sampler. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Sourdough...just 100 minutes of sweet joy that I hope Habanos S.A can replicate for this cigar for sometime. If you've put this away, or are smoking through some TOS 15/16 Diplomaticos No.2 currently, you are truly fortunate! 7. San Cristobal de La Habana La Fuerza (TOS Mar 16) Cocoa, coffee, molasses and sweetbread...this is quintessential San Cristobal de La Habana. This is a marca I absolutely adore because I'm a sweet tooth. This cigar was very, very good and I was well-satisfied, but it goes to show how good the Punch Punch and Diplomaticos No.2 were on this day for me to rate those vitolas higher. 8. Cohiba Robustos (ETP Jun 16) This, and the next two cigars, I enjoyed in the company of some fine Sydney Friends of Habanos members at a get together at my house. Again, it was a warm Sunday summer's day, but this Robusto was still distinctively Cohiba, with that combination of grass/hay, honey, citrus and cream we all know and love. 9. Fonseca No.1 (UME Mar 15) Apparently this cigar has been deleted a few years ago, but it just seems to go into production now and then ever since the announcement. Wood, floral notes, soft marshmallow and very, very mild. This is suitable for a change of pace. Construction on this was outstanding! 10. Montecristo No.1 (BUM Abr 15) How good is it to have this Lonsdale cigar smoking this well? This was the third cigar of our get together and I think I saved the best for last! Montecristo cocoa, cream and leather in a 1 and 3/4 hours smoke. I don't think I have these often enough! 11. Diplomaticos Bushido (TOS Oct 15) This is an incredibly special Asia Pacifico Regional Edition release. You know this from the very fact that the cigar is tapered at the head, a Numero 109, a vitola saved for the very best cigars. And, this is one of those cigars so deserving of that praise. I saved this for a get together with Trevor and Alex to discuss Cuban Cigar Website on a mid-week day in January. Unfortunately, the day was extremely hot, over 100°F (38°C). Still, I savoured that Diplomaticos sourdough and cinnamon goodness, and the fine, fine company! 12. Partagas Lusitanias (OBM Jun 16) I can't remember the last time I had a double corona, but after having this, I made sure to pick up a box from a 24:24 sale soon after. I found this like a milder Partagas Shorts...mild, smooth spice, coffee and sourdough. It went for 2 hours and 5 minutes and after I finished it I wanted to light one up immediately thereafter! 13. Bolivar Coronas Gigantes (PUR Mar 16) I smoked this watching 'La La Land' with my wife and boy did this cigar send me there. Oh what a pity it's being deleted, and even though Bolivar is not favourite marca on account of the earthiness in its profile, still, I can appreciate the spice, coffee and toasted tobacco spine. How apt I should end the Sampler series on this cigar. Farewell BCG...you will be long remembered!
Stats: 7” x 47 Vitola: Julieta #2 Initial Thoughts: Like most of the big Cuban cigars that I’ve had, the BCG feels light in the hand. It lacks that dense, meaty feel I’m accustomed to from similarly-sized Nicaraguan cigars. This isn’t a bad thing. The wrapper is a golden, medium brown. Plenty of small veins, and the cigar is quite toothy. Very slightly oily. Not a great looking wrapper, but it’s not particularly dull or bad-looking either. 1st 3rd: Perfect draw, with just a touch of resistance. The initial flavor impressions are salt, baking spices. Body is pretty medium. A very nice start. 2nd 3rd: Sharp burn line. The cigar is hitting it’s stride. It’s jumped over medium line to the fuller side. Same nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolate core, but now the cigar has added some spice and a coffee bitterness that is very pleasant and gives the cigar some oomph. Final 3rd: The cigar becomes quite full and strong in the final 3rd. The spice and bitterness has replaced most of the earlier sweetness. Despite how far this cigar has become, it never gets tarry. The final 3rd does lack finesse or complexity, but I suspect that might come with some age. Final Thoughts: This is an excellent cigar. The Cuban Churchill is a great size. I’d call it a solid 92. I could definitely see this cigar aging into a mid-90s score for me. That said, I wouldn’t want to age it so long that it loses that oomph. Final Smoking Time: 93 minutes