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Los Angeles, October 14, 2010 – Frank Herrera is a lawyer who loves cigars. In fact, he loves them so much that he has spent countless hours trying to help small manufacturers in trademark battles against much larger foes, including Cuba's Habanos, S.A.
So it was probably inevitable that, eventually, Herrera was going to introduce his own cigar brand, and in 2009, he did. He calls it "La Caridad del Cobre" after the Patron Saint of Cuba, first seen - according to legend - in 1608.
The brand was well received on introduction, but Herrera has reblended it for 2010 and is hoping for even wider distribution. We checked out both styles:

La Caridad del Cobre - Natural wrapper:
[Dominican Republic: available in 3 sizes]

Immediately recognizable by a very large and colorful band, the natural-wrapped La Caridad del Cobre blend uses an Ecuadorian-grown leaf for wrapper, over a Dominican binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler combination. The result is a cigar with a medium-to-full-bodied presence in the mouth, with a spicy aroma.

There's plenty of flavor, with a pop of caramelized sweetness to start, with a long finish that includes just a wisp of spice. The construction and draw are excellent and the burn is even and smooth.

The lively sweetness continues well into the second half, with a balance of light spice on the finish, intensifying only in the final third. It's a relaxing cigar, with a mellow pacing that encourages you to take your time and enjoy.

Fans of the brand will also enjoy the prices, which are quite accessible at $5.99 to $6.49 each, with all three sizes available in boxes of 20.

Overall grade:             Excellent.

La Caridad del Cobre - Maduro wrapper:
[Dominican Republic: available in 4 sizes]
The maduro-wrapped edition of the La Caridad del Cobre brand features a nearly-black Brazilian wrapper that gives the blend a full-bodied presence in the mouth, with a toasty and slightly spicy aroma.

As one would expect from a maduro, there is plenty of sweetness, with just a bit of spice on the finish in a lively combination. As the volume of the sweetness in the taste has been dialed up compared with the natural-wrapped edition, so has the sharpness of the spiciness of the finish, with a rich and entertaining result.

Construction and burn are excellent and the richness and smoothness of the blend are remarkable, continuing well into the second half. The intensity of flavor lessens only slightly even in the final third. Just terrific.

All four sizes of the La Caridad del Cobre maduro line are offered in boxes of 20, with retail pricing from $6.39 to $7.25 each, not including local taxes.

Overall grade:                Exceptional.

Herrera can be justly proud of his cigar, whose vibrant flavor and texture are very much a reflection of his own energy and drive. In fact, his cigars are good enough that he may - at some point in the future - have to decide if he prefers selling cigars or being a lawyer . . . he can ask Rocky Patel about making that choice.
~ Rich Perelman

Los Angeles, October 29, 2010 – Every year at the giant International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association convention and trade show, smokeshop retailers are greeted with a bewildering variety of cigars from folks that they just don't know much about.
"Should I take a chance?" thinks the retailer. After tasting a sample, they say to themselves, "these are pretty good, but will they sell?"

Casa Gomez is in that category. Created by Benny Gomez's Inter-America Cigar Company of Miami, this brand is offered in two styles, with a natural or a maduro wrapper, both made under the supervision of Luis Sanchez of La Tradicion Cubana fame at his Tabacalera LTC in the Dominican Republic. Slowly, but surely, Gomez has built a chain of retailers which carry his lines and we checked out his namesake brand, in both editions:

Casa Gomez - Natural wrapper:
[Dominican Republic: available in 4 sizes]

Introduced in 2007, the Casa Gomez line is an easy-to-smoke blend that features a light, Connecticut-seed wrapper grown in Ecuador and Dominican-grown binder and filler leaves. It lights easily, has a medium body and a spicy aroma.

But the fun starts as the cigar opens up to offer a rich, caramelized flavor with only a trace of spice on the lips on the finish. It's sweet and smooth and just marvelous, offering lots of flavor without ever turning tart or hot.

The richness of the taste remains consistent well into the second half, again with just a bit of spice on the finish. Moreover, the construction is excellent and the blend burns well so that it does not tire the smoker, making it a fine choice after meals.

This is a quality cigar, with all four sizes available in boxes of 25 and quite reasonably priced from $6.28 to $7.50 each.

Overall grade:                Exceptional.


Casa Gomez - Maduro wrapper:
[Dominican Republic: available in 4 sizes]
The maduro-wrapped edition of the Casa Gomez line is new for 2010, featuring a dark, Brazilian-grown leaf covering the Dominican-grown binder and filler.

It lights well, but has a medium-to-full-bodied presence in the mouth and a nicely spiced aroma at the start. The taste showcases the wrapper with notes of dark caramel, balanced with a modest element of spice on the finish. The draw is perfect and the burn is even.

Maduro fans who enjoy the richness and depth that these extra-ripe leaves being to a cigar will appreciate this blend, which maintains the lively nature of the taste right into the final quarter. The wisp of spice remains on the finish for balance, accenting the otherwise smooth ride of sweetness to the end.

Like the natural-wrapped edition, the maduro-wrapped Casa Gomez comes in four sizes, all in boxes of 25 and is accessibly priced at $6.28 to $7.50 apiece.

Overall grade:               Exceptional.

The excellence of the Casa Gomez line underscores the adage that "the best cigar you ever smoke may be the next one you try." There's little doubt that fans of flavorful and easy-to-enjoy cigars can add Casa Gomez to their list of 'new' cigars to try . . . even if they have been around for three years!
~ Rich Perelman


Los Angeles, November 2, 2010 – Continuing our look at cigars made - under contract - at Luis Sanchez's Tabacalera LTC in the Dominican Republic, we checked in on the two "base blends" in the Jameson line and once again found reason to appreciate two more brands that many folks never even consider:

Jameson Black Label:
[Dominican Republic: available in 5 sizes]

The Jameson line was introduced in 2008 and includes both a natural-wrapped edition (with a red band) and a black-labeled, maduro-wrapped blend. The latter features an extra-dark Brazilian wrapper surrounding a Honduran binder and Dominican-grown filler leaves for a medium-to-full body, with a spicy aroma.

The flavor is caramelized from the start, with just a pinch of spice on the tongue on the finish. This balance is nicely maintain throughout the first half of the cigar, which shows excellent construction, and an even burn.

The second half shows a lively, 50/50 balance of the sweet and spicy elements, with plenty of flavor that makes this cigar a pleasure to smoke. There's just a bit more spice at the end, but both tones remain in play.

All five sizes are offered in boxes of 20, and are accessibly priced at $5.80 to $6.70 each, not including local sales and tobacco taxes.

Overall grade:              Excellent.

The Red Label edition of the Jameson line is marked by a light, Ecuadorian-grown, Connecticut-seed wrapper, combined with a Honduran binder and Dominican filler. It's medium-plus in body, with a pleasant, toasty and spicy aroma.

There is a sweet note at the start of this blend, slightly caramelized and quite vibrant in its depth, accented by a spicy finish that you'll feel mostly on the tongue. It's quite pleasing, thanks to the richness of the tastes, along with an even burn and an easy draw.

The spiciness of the finish rises in intensity in the second half, and better balances the sweet notes through into the final quarter of the cigar. It's a winner.

Like the Black Label, all sizes are offered in boxes of 20 and pricing is similar, from $5.80 to $6.90 apiece, not including local taxes.

Overall grade:                Exceptional.

The Jameson line is best-known to many smokers for its Declaration line, a protest cigar against higher taxes, which we will be test-smoking soon. In the meantime, the standard Jameson blends showed themselves as well worth trying, thanks to their excellent construction and enjoyable, lively flavors.
~ Rich Perelman


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Los Angeles, November 19, 2010 – Cigar smokers don't have to be told that are a harassed minority. The Jameson Cigar Co. brought out the Declaration blend in 2009 as a protest against smoking bans and ever-higher taxes. Made by the Tabacalera LTC, we checked out this statement against presecution:

Declaration:
[Dominican Republic: available in 3 sizes]
There is no mistaking the Jameson Cigar Company's Declaration brand. It started as a one-size line in 2009, with the Iniquity measuring 5 1/2 inches long by 50 ring and featuring an extra-dark Nicaraguan-grown wrapper with a Dominican-grown binder and filler. And then there is the giant band, picturing an eagle with the word "Declaration" below it.

The cigar itself lights easily and has a spicy aroma with a medium-to-full body. The flavor is rich, sweet and tart, with a taste slightly reminiscent of black cherries, and a slightly sweet finish. Well constructed, it burns easily and has an easy draw.

It stays fairly consistent into the second half, with somewhat less intensity and the rise of a modest, spicy finish. A stronger note of spice and a bit of pepper come into play in the last quarter of the cigar.

Declaration is an entertaining cigar, with plenty of flavor and a certain edge that underscores its protest message against the bans and taxes being forced upon cigar enthusiasts. It is uniquely offered in boxes of 21, now in three sizes, varying in price from $5.71 to $6.19 each, not including local sales and tobacco taxes.

Overall grade:              Excellent.

All three of the Jameson lines, the Black Label, Red Label and Declaration, scored four or more stars in our tastings over the past month, underscoring the continuing quality of Luis Sanchez's Tabacalera LTC. The Jameson brand may be underappreciated for now, but that it not likely to continue too much longer in the future.
~ Rich Perelman

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Santos de Miami February 2012   by Cigarfan.

Not many American cigar lovers found it an occasion to celebrate, but last week marked the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Proclamation 3447 and the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba. Since February 7, 1962, Americans have either had to seek out Non-Cuban substitutes for their inimitable Cuban favorites or to skirt the law and risk possible legal sanctions. Many of us — and I won’t say who — have done both.

Whatever your political viewpoint — and there are as many points for as there are against the embargo — a positive consequence of the ban has been the development of cigar industries in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua that now rival that of Cuba’s. And this has been a huge boon for cigar lovers everywhere.

The “forbidden fruit” factor has always been an element at play in the blending and marketing of cigars to Americans, but to a certain extent this has faded with the introduction of super premiums from Fuente, Padron, Tatuaje, Davidoff, and many others. But the elusive flavor of Cuban tobacco is never far from our minds. And every once in a while a cigar comes along that gets very close to that flavor. I think Jameson has done that with Santos de Miami.

Santos de Miami is a Dominican puro with a Havana corojo wrapper, Criollo 98 binder, and a blend of criollo and corojo filler leaves. Only two sizes are made: a corona size called Alma (5 x 46) and a toro sized Haven (6 x 56). The cigars feature a box press so extreme that the sticks resemble wafers. They are presented in 10-count boxes of Spanish cedar that preserve the press.

Construction

Jameson’s Santos de Miami cigar is already distinctive with its box press and art deco band — add a pig tail cap and the distinction is complete. The claro wrapper shows some fine veins, but is otherwise clean. The draw is excellent, and the burn is only a little off kilter. This seems to be standard with box-pressed cigars, but in this case the uneven burn was a minor issue and corrected itself over time. The ash was solid, smooth, and delightfully quadrilateral.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Haven and the Alma sizes smoke like very different cigars, though they share the same musky, earthy and Cubanesque aroma. The corona-sized Alma is a sharper, somewhat bolder smoke. It fires up with a pinch of cayenne pepper in the sinuses and then quickly evens out to a smoother but still full-flavored profile of cedar and musk. The Alma burns with a little more passion, but is also less complex than the larger vitola.

The toro-sized Haven is much less peppery and leans on the musk and cedar more heavily than the smaller cigar. The smoke texture is just as creamy smooth though, and it seems to have an additional bass note that the Alma lacks. The middle section is earthy with a sweet cedar edge, and the final third rests on its woody foundation while the earthy flavors take a back seat.

What both sizes have in common is an earthy and musky scent with a cedar note. I’m certainly no expert when it comes to Cuban cigars, but this aroma is really close to what I’ve found in many standard line Habanos. The scent is not quite as delicate, but I find it to be very similar. In any case the aroma complements the sharper character of the Alma just as well as the more complex flavors of the Haven.

Conclusion

Santos de Miami is not an easy cigar to find, but truly “boutique” cigars generally aren’t. This is one worth seeking out if your tastes run to earthy and medium-bodied Cuban-style smokes. At least you won’t have to get them from a guy who knows a guy and end up with cigars of mysterious provenance.

The retail price for the Alma is around 7 USD and the Haven sells for 8. They are available from a few online outlets, but you might as well go straight to the source at Jamesoncigars.com. Pick up a pound of Rockstone coffee while you’re at it and let me know how it is.

Final Score: 91
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T. L. Johnson Tempio Extreme Box Press by Cigarfan  Nov 2012

T.L. Johnson produces three distinct lines under the T. L. Johnson brand name:   the Legend Reserve Reserve 63, and the Signature line in Connecticut and Maduro. The company is located in Colorado.
Tempio is, I believe, their newest line, and since it is produced by one of my favorite boutique manufacturers – La Tradicion Cubana – I was itching to give it a go.
Tempio utilizes a Pennsylvania wrapper leaf (like the JML 1902) in conjunction with an habano binder and Dominican filler. The cigar is made in four sizes:

No. 50 (Robusto) — 5 x 50
No. 52 (Torpedo) — 5 1/2 x 52
No. 56 (Toro) — 5 1/4 x 56
No. 54 (Churchill) — 6 3/4 x 54

Construction Notes

If it weren’t for the sloping shoulders and tightly wound pig-tail cap of the Tempio, I’d say this cigar looks like a carpenter’s pencil. A big one. Maybe the right size for Shaq if he adds cabinetry to his career profile. The corners are clean and form tight right angles that relax a little as the cigar burns.
The colorado maduro wrapper is smooth but leathery in appearance. The veins appear to have been pressed into the leaf, so it looks rustic but doesn’t feel that way to the touch. The draw offers the right amount of resistance, and the burn is surprisingly even for a square pressed stick. The ash is a little bit flaky on the perimeter but holds strong.

Overall Construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Tempio focuses on a cedar flavor throughout the smoke, but it starts up with some unusual scents that are hard to place. There is a peppery spiciness on the tongue that fades pretty quickly, but the most interesting aspect of the first third are the fleeting sweet spicy notes in the aroma. There seems to be something vaguely fruity about the aroma, but not in a light way — it’s a spicy fruitiness that reminds me a little of the scent of mulled wine.
The spice loses some of that interesting sweetness in the mid-section, but it remains sweet in a more conventional way. There is less of a cedar flavor and the smoke becomes a little smoother. The smoke is medium in body, and probably a touch heavier than that in strength. There is a dry papery tartness in the aftertaste.
The last third reintroduces the pepperiness as the flavors begin to char, but even in the last few puffs some sweetness lingers.

Conclusion

I love the complexity of flavors that the Pennsylvania wrapper contributes to the Tempio, and the overall performance of the cigar is very good as well. It’s a balanced with just the right amount of spice, and it’s never boring.  In fact it’s a little bit edgy, which I think gives it       some aging potential.

Final Score: 90

Made in Dominican Republic by: 
Fabricado en Republica Dominicana por:
Fabriqué en République Dominicaine par:
Hergestellt in Dominikanischen Republik von:
Tabacalera LTC SRL.