TacoSauce NC Diary


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Motivated by @HoyoFan's thread on NC alternatives that the CC smoker might find palatable, I decided to order an assortment of the sticks recommended here and elsewhere and see what I like. Looking at

Warped Maestro del Tiempo 5205 (+++): 42 ring gauge but extra long. Supposedly this is called a "lonsdale." My first lonsdale! I like the shape and feel in my hand. This cigar blew me away. It has an

Puro Desnudo N7 Ninfas (++): Loooong and skinny -- the ultra-narrow ring gauge is new for me. I like it. Pre-light aroma and draw both have a straightforward, slightly tangy tobacco note. After lighti

Henry Clay War Hawk Corona (-): Upon lighting the flavor is immediately recognizable as the generic flavor of most mild cigars distributed by Big-Cigar (Altadis / General Cigar) in the late 1990s: mild, flat, and uninteresting. Amazing how I can be transported back in time after only the first puff. I didn't find this interesting in the 90s and I still don't today. Smoked the first third without any change observed. Tossed the stick at this point: life is too short to smoke this crap. it is funny, I recall the standard Henry Clay as being one of the few standouts worth revisiting in the Big-Cigar lineup. Maybe I need to revisit that.

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Rojas Breakfast Taco CT (+): A fun little perfecto. Flavor in the first half is very mild. So much so that you can taste "ash" as one of the main flavors. The only merit to the first half is that it is better than the Henry Clay War Hawk. The second half brings a nice bump in flavor level. A little bit of toasty bread with a hint of pepper. This profile ramps up to medium by the end of the smoke -- which is fast since this thing is so small.

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Caldwell Eastern Standard Euro Express (++): Cigar has a nice feel in the hand. On the pre-light draw I get a bit of sourness and it leaves a tingle on the lips. First half of this cigar is fantastic. The flavor is predominately nutty -- maybe hazelnut. It is strongly reminiscent of the nut flavor you get from a flavored coffee. Or maybe coffee prepared with hazelnut creamer? Perhaps hazelnut creamer alone since there isn't any coffee flavor coming from this cigar. The intensity of the nutty flavor is great and more pronounced than any other cigar I've tried. The second half maintains that nutty flavor, but it becomes overshadowed by a dry and bitter woodiness. The overall effect is like sucking on dried firewood -- making your mouth pucker. There is absolutely no sweetness to be found anywhere and the experience comes right up to the border of unpleasantness without crossing it.

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Trinidad Espiritu Series No. 2 Toro (+): I don't like toros; they are too big. But this was the only size available from the vendor as a single. Wrapper is dark and smooth and the pre-light aroma is barnyard and over-roasted coffee. This stick is consistent throughout: medium in body, with dark chocolate and wood notes predominating. By the half-way point I am bored with it and don't particularly want to keep smoking. I persevere to the end of the second third because I am a hero. Toros are too big.

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Tatuaje Cabaiguan #54 (++): This thing is too big. Maybe not exactly a toro, but still too big. Great looking, smooth stick with minimal pre-draw aroma. Mild-medium body throughout. Intersting flavors: wood, cream, nuttiness and some occasional saltiness. The flavors tease in the direction of a CC, but never quite get there. Overall too mild; if the flavors had a little more oomph I could see this being a decent CC substitute. Despite the size, I smoked the whole thing without complaint. Apparently there is a "Guapo" version with a bit more body. Should def. try that version next.

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Buffalo Ten CT (+++): Tried the natural and maduro before this one and found them to both be good, but not memorable smokes. This one is different. The first inch was unremarkable and smoked like a generic CT wrapper stick. After that the flavor kicked in giving sweet butterscotch, cream, and woodiness. There are also hints of that "electric" flavor that I get with the Oliva Master Blends 3. I can't explain the flavor other than to say it seems like the cigar electrifies and the flavor starts to buzz. I love it! This flavor profile stays unchanged until the end. Fantastic.

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New World Dorado Robusto (++): Why do I even have this stick in my humidor? It says "AJ Fernandez" right on the label, and "AJ Fernandez" is spanish for "this is a spicy stick that you will not enjoy." Oh well. Pre-light it smells of spicy Mexican chocolate. Very different and kind of nice. After lighting, the first 3/4 inch delivers a lot of Nicaraguan spice and a rough retrohale. Thought I was going to have to toss this stick, but I held on. After the first inch this thing mellowed out nicely. A smooth and enjoyable smoke up until the last inch and a half. Tossed it after that. Solidly medium with an unoffensive retrohale. Not a lot going on. It delivers straight tobacco flavor and maybe a slight hint of chocolate milk. This opens my mind to other AJ Fernandez options if I can figure out how to avoid the spice.

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Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 Robusto (+): This thing is longer than a normal robusto. feels heavy in the hand. Smells of barnyard, bark, and slight cinnamon. This is a dark looking cigar, but is mild-medium throughout. The constant flavor is of watered down chocolate milk from start to finish with a little toasted tobacco at the core. Retrohale is easy and nice. Not a lot going on here. If I take mini-puffs instead of full puffs I can get a hint of something cubanesque -- like the mildest version of an R&J. Just not enough there to make make me want to go back to this cigar. If there were some other flavors layered on top of this basic core, there might be the makings of a ++ cigar. 

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Perdomo Habano Bourbon Barrel-Aged (BBA) CT Gordo (+++): 6 x 60: this is a stupid-big cigar. I hate it. However, people rave about the bourbon-barrel aspect for some reason. How is aging in a bourbon barrel anything other than a marketing gimmick? I mean, only a small subset of the leaves are going to making contact with the barrel. The remainder should age in a manner indistinguishable from leaves aged in open piles. Construction is very good and the cold draw has a little bit of a funky note. Wow, this cigar has amazing flavors starting from the 1/2 inch point down to the end. I don't know what these flavors are. Butter, cream, vanilla? Not really, but I don't have any other words to describe what is going on. No transitions, but still captivating throughout. I will have to try others in the Perdomo line.

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Rocky Patel Number 6 Robusto (++): This band is enormous. Do I like enormous bands? Undecided. After lighting I immediately understand that this is a Rocky Patel. I'm not sure how that happens; there must be something consistent with Rockys that allows this. This is a solid medium throughout. This is a one-dimensional smoke and I have trouble calling out specific flavors, but overall I'm left with the idea that this is one of those sweet coffee buns that they have in the fancy bakeries. Sweet bread with a hint of coffee. Even though it lacks any strong specific flavors, I find the whole thing to be refined and very satisfying. I do not tire of this profile.

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Four Kicks Capa Especial Corona Gorda (+): I like the corona gorda size. Looking forward to this stick based on appearance alone. There is some interesting complexity to this stick. Over the course of the session, there were multiple layers of savory flavors. Medium to medium full progressively from start to end. Despite all of those positives, there was quite a bit of Nicaraguan pepper-spice throughout and the nicotine hit was noticeable by the end. Neither sits well with me. The spice gets in the way of flavor and gets in the way of a pleasant retrohale. The level of spice is a deal-breaker; will not return to this stick.

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Warped Maestro del Tiempo 5205 (+++): 42 ring gauge but extra long. Supposedly this is called a "lonsdale." My first lonsdale! I like the shape and feel in my hand. This cigar blew me away. It has an amazing sweetness at its core that elevates the whole experience. There were some tangy sour flavors that gave it a sweet & sour aspect for awhile. Beyond that, I can't recall other specifics because I was clearly put into a trance by the whole ordeal. Despite the long duration of this smoke, I was angry that it ended -- I needed more. Outstanding. I now feel that everything should be a lonsdale.

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Tatuaje Cabaiguan Guapos Natural Toros Grande (-): 5 5/8 x 54 makes this a chonky boy. Like its non-Guapo cousin it it a great looking, smooth stick. This one however has a distinctive popcorn-like aroma coming from the wrapper. Pre-light draw gives a similar popcorn note. After lighting, it has some very cuban-esque notes. There is a faint twang that is very similar to a CC. Not the same, but similar to the non-Guapos Cabaiguan, and the closest thing I've come across in a NC. The flavor is so light however, that I struggle to get much and the finish is so short it is practically non-existant. The burn was razor sharp and the ash held on with great tenacity; however, the smoke on the draw was thin and not satisfying. The favor was so faint that I would triple-puff to try to get it to heat up a little. All that did was coax out a bitter wood flavor. Gave up before I got half-way. No point continuing with this nonsense stick.

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Tatuaje Cabaiguan Guapos Maduro Toros Grande (-): Just as chonky as its natural counterpart. Given the lackluster performance of the natural version of the Guapos, I went into this with low expectations. The construction, burn, and draw were all perfect. The smoke and flavors were kicked up a notch compared to the natural, however the overall effect was still mostly uninteresting. I get a very mild, slightly sweet, earthy, popcorn flavor. None of the CC-like notes that the natural provided are present. Those flavors were so weak that they are likely masked by the maduro wrapper. This is still a weak stick that doesn't captivate. The interesting flavor comes on the retrohale which is actually nice. However, while there isn't any pepper or spice on the retro, the smoke significantly irritates and causes the nose to run. Tossed this stick at the half-way point.

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Warped Corto x46 (+): Excited to try this. My second cigar from the Warped brand. I had high expectations after the Maestro del Tiempo. This is not a lonsdale. Shouldn't it be a lonsdale? Of course it should. Hmmm, this is a medium-full smoke with pronounced spice from start to finish. There is nothing remotely similar to the Maestro. Definitely a spicy/savory cigar. I smoked to the end hoping it might eventually provide some Maestro-like notes, but it was not to be.

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Perdomo Reserve Champagne Corona Extra (++): The cello on this stick is actually tinted yellow. Is that supposed to make it appear aged? Seems kind of misleading. A nice sized stick -- a way more reasonable size than the giant Gordo size I had previously with the BBA-CT. The BBA was so good I look forward to trying this one. I'm getting similar butter and vanilla notes compared to the BBA, but they aren't as intense. There is more wood in this blend and there is a lot more nicotine kick here. By the end of the stick I can really feel it. A good smoke overall, but this is a few notches lower compared to the BBA. I wouldn't reach for this one again if the BBA is available.

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Illusione OneOff Corona Gorda (+): A beautiful stick in a nicely sized vitola. The pre-light aroma has a bit of a tanginess that I like. This is a mild-medium stick with some nice bready and nutty flavors over a wood core. Just a hint of pepper throughout. I enjoyed smoking this stick, but overall the flavors were too muted to make me want to smoke another one at this price point. If these were cheaper, I could see it as a pleasant cigar for times when you don't plan on paying close attention to the cigar.

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Dunbarton Muestra de Saka Exclusivo (+): I purchased 5 singles from Dunbarton -- one from each of their main lines. The first 4 were all awful. Construction was so bad that they were either completely unsmokable despite a thorough treatment with the PerfectDraw, or they were barely smokable, but disgusting, bitter, and harsh due to poor draw. I would recommend Swisher Sweets over any of these cigars, they were that bad. Not hyperbole to say that two of these were the worst cigars I have *ever* tried to smoke. In each case, I tossed the Dunbarton stick and smoked a Drew Estates stick ordered from the same vendor, at the same time, and stored under identical conditions (65% Boveda in a wooden humidor): each of the Drew Estates smoked flawlessly.

The final stick from this set was the Exclusivo. When I took this one out of the humidor, I noticed that the upper half of the wrapper had developed multiple 2- to 3-inch long vertical splits. You could tell from gently squeezing the cigar that the upper half was overpacked and this was causing the wrapper to crack/split. I purchased some PerfectGlue and ended up painting the entire top half of the cigar to try to "fix" the issues. After drying, I cut the cap and Hallelujah, there was a decent draw! The first third was mild-medium and unoffensive. The remainder of the stick, however, developed a sweetness and mustiness that was very nice. Despite the happy ending, I will not be revisiting anything from this brand. While Steve Saka might have some skill in blending, it is clear he knows squat about construction. Hard to imagine a NC shop could have worse QC than Habanos SA, but Dunbarton manages to pull it off!

 

EDIT: I was asked about how long these sticks had acclimated after purchase, since they may have arrived over-humidified. For the 4 sticks that smoked terribly, they were stored using 65% Boveda in a wooden humidor for a minimum of 4 weeks before the first one was smoked. The last of those 4 duds was probably smoked after 8 weeks of acclimation. These were purchased with a huge order of singles that all arrived and were stored together. The Dunbartons were the only ones that had this issue.

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Atabey Divinos (+++): A pricey little stick for a NC. Not much pre-light aroma. Upon lighting, I get an immediate sweetness. Over the first third, wood, cream, and a little vanilla join the mix of flavors. This thing is light, smooth, and refined from the initial puff. The second third is as close as a NC can come to a HdM Epi. 2. So similar -- just a little less cream and baking spice. The final third keeps these flavors and layers on a bit of honey. I'm relieved that the quality reflects the price, however this is *more* expensive than a HdM Epi. 2; this is antithetical to the goal of finding NC alternatives that help ease the price increases in CCs.

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Aladino Classic Corona (+): I like the size: a petit corona with a little extra girth. Pre-light aroma is tobacco and barnyard. After lighting, I get some toasty tobacco flavor and that's it for the entire cigar. It reminds me of a non-Cameroon Fuente stick. Lots of people like those, but I only enjoy Fuente if it has the Cameroon wrapper. I think this could be someone's "yard-gar," but not mine.

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La Palina Classic Connecticut Robusto (+): I had the rosado version of this a while back and really liked the sweet, uniform flavor. This one had a lot of the same core sweetness, but the influence of the CT wrapper dropped it to a milder experience. The overall effect was to make this too light & boring. Maybe a good recommendation for newbies.

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Illusione Fume D'Amour Lagunas (+++): A tiny stick, but very handsome in its slightly red-hued wrapper and classy band. Lots of flavor in this little package! Just under medium for the entire smoke, but with a lot of unique notes. I think I get some cigarette flavor from this. I can't describe it except to say that some cigarettes have a sweet & tangy flavor that I haven't experienced in a cigar (until now). Nothing derogatory about that, I think it is very nice. Maybe this is similar to the tanginess that some oriental pipe tobaccos deliver. Will have try another of these in a larger size.

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