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One of the best things about our FriendsofHabanos community are the regular competitions our host runs for the benefit of our community. It was one such competition in June this year, the Sublime Selfie Weekend Competition that, thanks to you, enabled me to win a prize of 5 regular production cigars. The timing of that competition was impeccable. I was coming to the end of a hectic June work period and looking forward to a well-earned holiday break, and this competition was coincidentally on the winter solstice so I made sure to get away as soon as I could to enjoy a cigar in the sunset. After acclimatising the cigars to my humidor for 90 days, I decided to review them in appreciation of their reception, and so give back a benefit to our members in sharing how these cigars smoked. The cigars in the image below are, from left-to-right; H.Upmann Magnum 46, Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchills, Saint Luis Rey Regios, Cohiba Siglo II and the Montecristo No.2. Below are the cigars I smoked in order... Saint Luis Rey Regios Vitola: Hermosos No.4 - 48 ring gauge x 127 mm or 5.0 inches I started this review series with the Saint Luis Rey Regios. Why? I had an aged Saint Luis Rey Serie A the week before so I figured that it would be great to compare notes. Plus, with the Double Corona and Serie A in a current production hiatus or possibly deleted, it gave me a chance to see what Saint Luis Rey currently represents. The Regios has been in consistent supply in the last year, going by how often it comes up on 24:24 listings. Our host, El Pres, recommends smoking these sooner than later, and after researching the topic, I deduced that the Regios is indeed not a cigar that benefits greatly from aging, unlike the Serie A. This cigar was medium-strength, light toast and hay, with elements of a honey sweetness at times and a cocoa edge. The thing about this cigar is, it needed to be smoked slowly to prevent acridity, as that toast, hay and tobacco flavour was dominant, but when smoked slowly and allowed to remain cool, this Regios rewarded me with elements of those sweeter flavours. I wonder with marcas such as Saint Luis Rey and Trinidad, whether there is a 'fine line' between complexity and muddled blandness, you know, when it seems all the flavours roll-into-one. They can reward you and they can punish you, bring you joy and make you weep in frustration, yet you still feel inclined to persist because they can be so good. Cohiba Siglo II Vitola: Marevas - 42 ring gauge x 129 mm or 5.1 inches Cohiba is a marca that polarises cigar enthusiasts. Firstly, there's the marked-up price, which in the past 12 months was increased 10%, in comparison to most other marcas increasing by an average of 3% and then secondly, there's the flavour profile that leaves some people wondering where's the appeal (to them). I must admit, that the great majority of my friends who I share this noble hobby with, enjoy Cohiba (and Montecristo) just as much as I do, which is saying something when you factor in Australian taxes on cigars. So what was it like to smoke this Siglo II fresh? The grassiness was the dominant flavour, with espresso coffee just a little behind. There was a little honey, but not much and spice through the nose, but no cream texture to be found. It was distinctly Cohiba, but I admit I do like them rested at least 3 to 5 years. Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchills Vitola: Montesco - 55 ring gauge x 130 mm or 5.1 inches If Cohiba and Montecristo represent two marcas I find great comfort in, than Romeo y Julieta and Bolivar alternatively represent two marcas which I find tend to make me suffer. If given a modern context, I wonder if Jesus would revise his famous saying in Matthew 11; "Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest, except if you've had a Romeo y Julieta cigar that is all toasted tobacco, then you are on your own!" Well, this Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchills was such a pleasant surprise. In fact, of all these cigars, I'd consider this one to have been the best in light of their comparative youthfulness. It had excellent construction, great amounts of smoke per draw, the aroma at cold was a wonderful barnyard cocoa that instantly appeals to many an experienced cigar aficionado and it delivered. A touch under medium, this is not the type of cigar that obviates simplicity, it's not complex and that's not why you'd smoke this. Its combination of toast, tobacco and a cream cherry edge all throughout made it quite satisfying for me. Mind you, don't fret, I have Bolivar and Romeo y Julieta in my humidor, and it's cigars such as this one which make me re-visit the marca from time-to-time, even if the 55 ring gauge made me 'sip' it from the head. Then again, the larger ring gauge made me slow down and really savour this cigar. H.Upmann Magnum 46 Vitola: Coronas Gordas - 46 ring gauge x 143 mm or 5.6 inches I was reading over @ATGroom's excellent blog, (A Harem of) Dusky Beauties tonight, and apart from being elated that it's back online (I was only remarking to a few Sydney FoH members last night that it down since Cuban Cigar Website crashed in December 2016 - it's nice to be corrected in this instance), I was intrigued to learn that the H.Upmann Magnum 46 was the 9th most common vitola in Cuban Cigar Website members' inventories (the H.Upmann Half Corona was 8th). This Magnum 46 showed me how young it was. It had its H.Upmann espresso coffee and shortbread, but it had its toasted tobacco too, which made it a little over medium in strength. Perhaps some slight licorice redeemed this for me somewhat, as I did enjoy it well into its last third, yet my preference for Magnum 46's is a milder coffee, shortbread, cedar and hay expression, with a touch of spice. Then again, I think that this Magnum 46 was the type that @Chickenlassi enjoyed when he wrote this review a few years ago, you know, the kind of cigar that Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone would digest for breakfast, lunch and dinner without blinking! Montecristo No.2 Vitola: Piramides - 52 ring gauge x 156 mm or 6.1 inches I consider myself very fortunate to have had a great run of Montecristo No.2's this year, perhaps the last 8 to 10 have been all consistently superb. What can I say? I just love them, when they are 'on' that is. This cigar was exactly 'off' in comparison, it had excellent construction, a great draw and smoked well. So what was this issue? The wrapper shade! Yes, I prefer a lighter wrapper shade on my Montecristo No.2's, the type that give a lovely milk coffee, nut and cream combination. I find darker wrappers on Montecristo No.2's can make the cigar more intense, with more emphasised flavours of toasted tobacco and dark cocoa or chocolate, as this cigar was. But as cigars are a subjective experience, there's nothing wrong if you enjoy your Montecristo No.2's to be more intense in strength and flavour. If so, then this Monte 2 is for you!
Today I went back into the humidor and pulled a Mag 46 (MEL DIC 15) for the stopwatch review. This came into my possession from FOH via a box split with another great Florida BOTL. Conditions today were a little better than yesterday in terms of humidity, albeit still very humid near 80%, with brief periods of rain. This Mag 46 is not the most handsome specimen, the wrapper is a bit rough near the cap, but it has a nice milk chocolate brown wrapper. Draw was just the way I like it with minor resistance. I was looking forward to a good cigar today following the rough ride I had yesterday with the humidity seriously spoiling the aged Punch RS11 I had. For pairing I chose a Guinness Rye Pale Ale from a sampler case, which I found at my local Costco. I am quite impressed with this sampler case and have enjoyed about 4 cases in the past 3 or 4 of months. The Rye Pale Ale is not quite as hoppy or bold as a typical India Pale Ale, but it has a solid slightly bitter and flowery hop profile. Very pleasant ale. Burn started out great and it burned pretty much straight throughout the cigar, with a minor touch-up about halfway. I didn't spend much time taking notes for this review as I was doing some reading, however I was quite pleased with the aroma and flavor profile of the Mag 46. I got some twang and some roasted chestnut aroma, and the flavor started out somewhat mild and built slightly to a mild/medium. I must say, this was a very good smoking session, this cigar is not a powerhouse by any stretch, nor very complex, but it very easy and pleasing on the palate. Very enjoyable. As the last third of the cigar commenced, I was expecting the burn to go awry due to the humidity, but to my welcome surprise it continued to burn evenly and produce luscious voluminous smoke. As the end approached, I was a bit surprised it had ended so soon and with no fuss or any issues. Unfortunately, I was a bit absorbed in my reading material and I forgot to stop the stopwatch right away. I believe the accurate time was about 20 minutes before I stopped it, so call it 1 hour and 45 or 46 minutes. That's about a half hour faster than the RS11 I smoked yesterday, yet I didn't feel like I was smoking fast at all.