CAO America Landmark

Today while my wife was having lunch with one of her best friends in Glastonbury, Connecticut, I stopped in the Fine Cigar and Tobacco shop to kill a little time and enjoy a smoke.

The Fine Cigar Shop is a fabulous retailer, with a well stocked walk in humidor and a nice selection of humidors, torches, cutters and other supplies. It is also one of the few local tobacco shops where you will find today’s stick, The CAO America, available. It was at Fine Cigar where I discovered this less popular stick in the CAO World cigar line. I had previously smoked and enjoyed several of the other cigars in the series including the Brazilla, the Colombia, and the Italia.

The red white and blue label and gold pinstriped double wrapper make this one attractive cigar.

The America is absolutely beautiful to behold with its distinctive pinstripe barber pole wrapper and its red, white and blue band and foot band. The double wrappers are a Connecticut broad leaf Maduro and a Connecticut Shade Capa which have a nice oily dark brown appearance with some small veins. The cigar is firm from foot to cap and well packed with fillers from Nicaragua, Italy, the Dominican Republic and the United States, bound with a Brazilian binder and capped with a somewhat sloppy looking double cap.

The Landmark is a 6 x 60 Gordo and the America is also available as a 6.2 x 54 Torpedo (The Monument) and a 5.0 x 56 Robusto (The Potomac).

The cold draw was flavorful with predominant notes of dried fruit and some spice. I enjoyed the flavor of the cold draw very much, but did feel it wasn’t as potent as it could have been.

Upon lighting the America, the initial flavor noted was mild pepper, cedar and some slight nuttiness as I worked my way through the first third. The one word that I would use to describe the experience of the first third overall would be “dry.”

It was not unpleasant at all, but the flavor, though good, did not seem to be as intense as it could have been. I also noted a very slight bitterness and that the draw was somewhat loose and the burn uneven initially, needing occasional touching up with my torch to prevent canoeing.

Into the second third and the predominant flavor continued to be a mild pepper and some wood. There was a very slight creaminess noted and some nuttiness in the second third.

A mighty ash!

In researching the CAO America, I had found another review online where the reviewer described the cigar as having a ‘cardboard’ taste – definitely not a word you often see in cigar reviews, and not a word that is complimentary.

I would have to say that while I would probably not have identified this flavor on my own, once I had read this, I definitely agree that there was a certain cardboard flavor particularly in the second third. The burn evened out in the second third and the draw seemed to have tightened up a bit and was good from here on out.

The final third was not significantly different than the second third. The flavor notes remained spice, wood some nuttiness and some cream – again the taste of the cigar was overall pleasant, but milder than I’d have liked or expected. Also worth noting, the CAO America produced a beautiful firm salt and pepper ash that got to nearly 2 inches before it broke off.

I enjoyed the CAO America Landmark right down to the nub.

Overall I’d rate this cigar about a 7 out of 10 – definitely pleasant, very mild – perhaps too mild – and definitely worth smoking again. The gorgeous red white and blue labeling and pin-striping would make this a fine choice for a Fourth of July cookout.

I had a great visit to the Fine Cigar and Tobacco shop in Glastonbury today where I enjoyed my CAO America Landmark in their lounge watching the first Spring Training game (Mets beat the Braves, 4-3 – yay!) with two locals, Art and Rick. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

©2019 JMSurprenant

7-20-4 Cigar Reviews

The 7-20-4 cigar brand goes all the way back to 1874 when Roger G. (RG) Sullivan started his cigar company in New Hampshire. The distinctive numerical name came from the address of his factory at 724 Elm Street in Manchester, NH.

The popular 10 cent RG Sullivan 7-20-4 cigars were handmade with a Havana filler wrapped in a Sumatra wrapper and remained popular until Cuban Embargo forced the company to close in 1963.

In 2006, New Hampshire based cigar retailer, Kurt Kendall, decided to revive the brand name as an homage to the past. Importing tobacco from five countries, KA Kendall’s 7-20-4 boutique blend has been winning critical praise since its launch and Kurt continues to launch new varieties under the 7-20-4 brand.

My personal interest in the RG Sullivan brand comes from the fact that my maternal grandfather, Matthew Dziadosz, was a cigar smoker and he was brand loyal to RG Sullivan, smoking both the 7-20-4 and Dexter cigars produced in Manchester, NH.

Knowing the brand was defunct, spotting the distinctive 7-20-4 label on a box in a local cigar shop a few years back gave me pause. I purchased several 7-20-4 sticks that day, which I enjoyed while learning the history of the brand’s recent rebirth.

I have enjoyed several of the KA Kendall 7-20-4 cigars in recent years, including the Factory 57 and barber pole wrapped Hustler series. This past weekend, whilst up in New Hampshire to watch the Super Bowl with dear old dad, I spotted 7-20-4 cigars at the Two Guys Cigar shop in Seabrook and am reviewing here the standard 7-20-4 Toro and the newer 7-20-4 WK Series Robusto.

7-20-4 WK SERIES ROBUSTO

This recent offering from Kurt Kendall is a tribute to his son, William who passed away in 2011.

The wrapper is a nice mild Ecuador CT leaf. The filler is Nicaraguan and Honduran, bound with a Honduran binder.

The cigar has light to medium tan appearance, with smooth seams and several small veins. The stick was very firm, towards the stiff side and felt a bit dry. I was saddened to see the nice triple cap cracked when punched. Perhaps this particular cigar had been stored improperly or exposed to the cold? It was my first and only WK Series to date, so I will reserve judgement here.

The cold draw was flavorful – the predominant flavor I picked up on was cedar and a nice sweetness, like bakery. I read another review online that described hints of butter cookie and I definitely got that.

The first third had a good but slightly loose draw and a perfect burn. The flavor profile was predominantly cedar with some initial sweetness, some cream and nuttiness were also noticed.

By the second third the flavor opened up a bit, the cigar became very creamy with predominant cedar and some spice. I noted a definite butter cookie flavor happening here.

This continued into the final third, a similar flavor profile of cedar, cream and butter cookie. All throughout the last two thirds the draw continued to be a bit loose, but good and the burn was absolutely perfect.

The 7-20-4 WK Series Robusto – a mild flavorful smoke.

I would rate the WK Robusto from KA Kendall’s 7-20-4 line a solid 8 out of 10 and a cigar I would definitely look for again.

7-20-4 GRAN TORO

The 7-20-4 Gran Toro is a beautiful classic looking cigar with its 56 ring gauge and 6.5″ length. The outer leaf is a dark chocolaty brown showing few veins, smooth seams, a single cap and a pigtail. The cigar was well packed, firm to the touch and just slightly toothy.

The filler is a blend of Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Mexican leaf tobacco, held together with a Colombian binder all inside a Brazilian wrapper. A puro, this stick is definitely not!

I really loved the cold draw of this cigar – earthy, dried fruit, some spice and a hint of molasses were all noted. I took my time and enjoyed drawing on the unlit cigar for a while before starting it with my torch.

Upon lighting the cigar, the first flavor that hit my tongue was red pepper, but not strong pepper – more like a sweet red pepper flavor. There was also a nice flavor of wood, more oak than cedar. A very pleasing flavor combination off the hop.

The flavor profile continued well into the second third as well – nice red pepper, oaky wood and along the way some floral notes were introduced.

This flavor profile continued into the final third and right down to the end – sweet red pepper, wood and earthy floral notes – this was a very tasty cigar, but surprisingly a bit milder than I would have anticipated.

Throughout the cigar, the burn was razor sharp and the draw was very good. The 7-20-4 Gran Toro produced good smoke and a sturdy white ash.

As I mentioned I am brand loyal to Ken Kendall’s resurrection of the 7-20-4 label and I feel a connection to my late grandfather whenever I light up one of these great cigars.

Learn more about 7-20-4 here: https://www.7-20-4.com/

©2019 JMSurprenant

Alec Bradley Nica-Puro Rosado Gordo

I stopped by the Owl Shop after work today, a chilly late January Monday, with the Alec Bradley Nica-Puro Rosado Gordo in shirt pocket.  The cigar was a gift from my brother in law, Liam, who shares my love of cigars.  Liam and I have enjoyed several sticks together after family gatherings and the conversations have always been as good as the smokes.  Liam and I are both fans of the Alec Bradley line; I have never smoked the Nica-Puro before.

The Gordo is a hefty 6.2” 60 ring gauge cigar.  As the name suggests, this is a Nicaraguan puro – a Nicaraguan double binder and core of long-fillers from Nicaragua’s 3 main growing regions — Jalapa, Condega, and Esteli — are wrapped in a handsome Nicaraguan Rosado leaf.

Appearance is a nice oily chocolate brown, the Rosado wrapper is smooth with a couple of small veins and no seams.  Construction was very firm, with some softness noticeable just beneath the beautiful double-band.  The triple cap was impressive.

The cold draw was very flavorful.  Delicious notes of dried fruit, spiciness and some cedar.

The first third started off with strong notes of cedar, pepper, earthiness and some cocoa and nuttiness.  The burn was excellent, and a perfect draw.   The ash was salt and pepper and firm – and didn’t break off until about the inch and a half mark.

By the start of the second third, the flavor became creamier with continued strong notes of cedar, nuttiness and pepper.  There was a hint of leather and some cocoa.  The burn continued to be perfect throughout the second third.

Final third became creamier and the cedar and pepper notes continued right to the end and the burn remained perfect.  The cigar needed no touching up and never became bitter or stale tasting.  The smoking time was an hour and forty minutes.

The AB Nica-Puro was about as good as a cigar can be.  I would score it a 10 out of 10, a rating I don’t give often – but this is a true classic.

Altar Q Cigar by Oscar Valladares

I smoked my first Altar Q cigar by Oscar Valladares a couple of weeks ago at a whisky tasting at the Owl Shop in New Haven, Connecticut.  It was my first cigar from Oscar Valladares, although I have been meaning to try their Leaf for some time.  The Altar Q impressed me with a lot of flavor that evening and I noted that it paired particularly well with the Laphroaig Lore Scotch whisky that was being poured.

It is noontime New Year’s Eve 2018 and I stopped in at the Owl again today to try another Altar Q. after running some year-end errands.

The cigar comes boxed in a wooden box of 16 with the cigars separated by paper. The cigars do not have a cellophane wrapper but instead have a beautiful wide 3.5” paper foot band honoring Mayan tobacco.  Currently Neptune Cigar offers the box of 16 for $168 which makes the cost of an individual stick $10.50 – a bit pricey for me, but really worth it.

Oscar Valladares Tobacco, is located in Danli, Honduras. It started operating on 2012, the Factory was founded by Oscar Valladares, Hector Valladares and Bayron Duarte, with experience in the tobacco industry; Oscar worked for more than 9 years with Rocky Patel and Bayron worked for more than 20 years for General Cigars and Oliva.

The Altar Q is a 52 ring gauge 6” cigar and features a Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, a Honduran Copan region binder and Honduran long fillers.  The appearance is oily and smooth, seamless with very few visible veins.  The cigar has a triple-cap and a pigtail.  Construction is fairly firm, and just a bit squishy.

I cut the cigar with my notch cutter and found the pre-light draw to be flavorful – very spicy, leathery, earth and classic tobacco flavored.

First third

Upon lighting, the Altar Q starts off with a big bite of spicy pepper – wow.  Also notable from the get go are subtle citrus, slight honey notes and some nuttiness.  The draw is very good and the burn is decent, a little uneven and required some slight touching up.  The cigar produces good smoke and produces a nice solid salt and pepper ash.

Second third

The strong pepper flavor is yielding a bit to a nice nutty and citrus flavor at the start of the second third.  The draw and burn both continue to be very good.  Just beyond the mid-point the flavor is becoming nuttier and the creaminess begins, however, the cigar needed re-lighting at this point, just as my first Altar Q needed a couple of weeks ago.

Final third

The last third begins with more creaminess, some nuttiness and the ever-present pepper.  The burn remained good and even and the draw was perfect.  As I smoked my way through the last third, the flavor became more and more creamy – a very tasty and satisfying smoke.

Overall

I consider the Altar Q an instant classic and a new favorite.   It pairs exceptionally well with a smoky peaty scotch such as Laphroaig Lore or a hot pot of Lapsong Souchong tea. I would rate it a 9 out of 10 and I look forward to picking up a full box before too long.

© 2019 James M. Surprenant