Category Archives: Cigars

Perdomo Cigar Trip; Esteli Nicaragua

In February of 2010 I and two colleagues were fortunate to be invited by Tabacalera Perdomo to visit their factory in Esteli Nicaragua.  The trip was a an eye opening journey into the cigar manufacturing process from seed to finished Cigar. My travel companions were Kevin (That Turkey Attacked Me) McKenna and Micah Dennison. We were representing The Party Source in Bellevue, KY along with two other vendors. Our plane ride from Miami was pretty cool for me as I sat across the isle from Jonathan Drew of Drew Estate Cigars who was hosting a client trip of his own. We arrived in Managua to 98 degree tropical heat. Nick Perdomo  and Arthur Kemper were on the same flight. There were SUVs waiting for us and Nick invited us to ride with him, Nick was filming a documentary of Perdomo Cigars on our trip. Juan Liranzo was taking care of all the production and photography. The trip from Managua to Esteli was about 2 hours steadily gaining in altitude; the higher we got, the cooler it got. It was 80 degrees by the time we got to Esteli. Some of us immediately went to see the fields and some went to the hotel. We stayed at a perfect little hotel on the Pan American Highway. The owner a citizen of Great Britain and his wife ( a local) took great care of us and fed us very well.

These two ladies cooked and took good care of us.

On the first full day of our trip we went to the fields were Nick Perdomo explained all the facets of caring for the plants and the painstaking measures taken to keep the plants healthy and free from insects and disease. We were right next to the Don Pepin’s newly constructed My Father Cigar factory. Arthur Kemper walked walked us over to the “Alpha Plants” that had hoods over the top of them; these are the plants used for seeds. Very Interesting! We then proceeded to the factory that had more bicycles out front that I have ever seen. Nick was eager to show us some new technology that he was pioneering in the cigar industry.

Perdomo Cigars had an  agricultural machine that selected single seeds and placed them into trays. Perdomo also has a transplanting machine that carefully places the tobacco plants in the ground with water without shocking them. At the time , Perdomo was the only company using this technology. Nick said this technology drastically reduced his labor cost enabling Perdomo Cigars to absorb most of the SCHIP tax that hit the industry hard. Perdomo Cigars went as far as reducing the price on several lines while their competitors were passing on price increases. After our agricultural lesson we made it the curing barns where the Tobacco leaves are strung onto poles and hung up to cure. The leaves are harvested as a group from the same height of the plant because they produce the same flavor and burning properties. The tobacco goes from the curing barns to the fermentation buildings where the leaves are carefully layered into large stacks to begin the fermentation. The tobacco heats up to over 90 degrees then the stacks are taken apart and rotated. The temperature rises and the process is repeated until the temperature stabilizes indicating the fermentation process is completed. The fermentation rooms were hot and very hard to breath in. The amount of nitrates and ammonia in the air made us choke and our eyes water. Aristides Garcia is in charge of the curing and fermentation process. Aristides is a Cuban citizen once in charge of Cuban cigar manufacturing zones, Aristides showed us how he checked to see if tobacco was ready to be rolled into cigars in these two videos. I like the way Aristides used newspaper as the mold for the cigars.

We finished off our day with dinner and some cocktails back at the hotel. The food was good and fresh. We had fresh eggs and freshly killed poultry from the hotel’s supply of chicken, guinea hen and vicious turkeys. One day while filming, a turkey viciously attacked Kevin. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to piss myself. I was very fortunate to travel with Kevin and Micah, we had many laughs, shared great experiences and learned a lot.

On the second day we toured the factory and watched as the cigar rollers took great pride in their craft. The rolling tables were set up with three people per table. The Middle spot was the where the bunch was constructed with wrappers being on both sides. The Cigar Rolling process is quite efficient. The “Buncher” constructs the the binder and filler with the help of a machine widely used in the cigar industry. The bunch goes into a press and then rotated before being given to the people putting on the wrapper.

After lunch on the second day we toured the Perdomo box factory. Perdomo has their own state of the art mill and box factory where all their boxes are produced. I never knew how much time, effort and money went into the boxes. You should have seen Nick’s face when I told him I used empty cigar boxes as fire starters.  That concluded the tour but the fun was not over.

We returned to the hotel for dinner and found that the young lady that was working at the hotel had gone into town and got us some local Nicaraguan coffee. The coffee factory was located very close and we could smell it all day if the wind was right. After dinner Nick Invited us back to his house for Rum, Cigars and Dominoes. We had a great time and even got to play dominoes. Cuban’s take dominoes very seriously. Nick’s Uncle Tony and Aristides were talking all kinds of shit to each other in Spanish and made everybody laugh.

Dominoes at Nick's House

The following day we returned home via Miami where I was detained as a suspected terrorist. We had a three hour layover so I made it to the next flight. All I could think about was getting some Cuban food from La Carreta with multiple locations inside the airport. I barely made it to La Carreta with Kevin and Micah just grinning from ear to ear. We made it back to Cincinnati without any more problems and tons of great experiences. I am very grateful to Nick Perdomo and Arthur Kemper for the opportunity to visit Nicaragua. Nick’s hospitality is unparalleled.

Kevin not really working!


Carlos Torano Salutem Cigar Review

I have been smoking Torano Cigars for about 12 years; over this time there have been several cigars that made me take a minute and say WOW! Most notably the Torano Tribute 2003 and the Casa Torano Connecticut released in 2004 or 2005. The Torano Salutem is another very memorable cigar. If this doesn’t make Cigar Aficionado’s top ten, I will be very surprised. Torano Cigars has gone through some changes over the last five years and have resurrected their brand. I have become acquainted with Charlie Torano (Son of the Patriarch Carlos Torano) and have enjoyed a few conversations over cigars. Oddly enough, our conversations always lead to family and interests outside of cigars. Family is very important to Charlie and it shows in his company and cigars. Every time Charlie comes to our area I try to at least pay a visit and say hello. About six or seven years ago myself and a colleague got a chance to sit down with Carlos Torano in there Miami offices. I was overwhelmed with information about the the exodus of 1959. What an experience and opportunity! A few years ago a friend and former customer of mine from La Havanita Cigars in Chicago made a move from CAO over to Torano Cigars. Miguel told me how much he liked working with Torano Cigars because it was like family. That’s not the first time I had heard that; our former sales rep Armando Lapido expressed the same sentiment when we visited Torano in Miami. Family values and the ability to make some of the best cigars in the market is a recipe for success.

Carlos Torano Salutem Toro Major

Size: 5 5/8 x 55

Wrapper: Ecuador Habano

Binder: Nicaragua (Jalapa)

Filler: Nicaragua (Esteli) (Jalapa), Dominican Corojo and African Cameroon

The Salutem was developed over a year and half of experimental blends developed by Charlie Torano, Miguel Schoedel and Bruce Lewis. I was given a Salutem the night before I wrote this. The Salutem inspired me to drive down tho The Party Source to buy another to review.

I sat down on a Saturday afternoon with some El Dorado 5 Year rum and lit up! The Salutem is visually appealing with excellent construction. The cigar felt dense and packed with tobacco yet the draw was perfect. I immediately thought of the Tribute 2003. Rich and spicy off the bat but mellowed quickly. There was a slight but notable citrus flavor on the long finish. Coco, leather and nuts were also quite pleasant going well with the rum. The Salutem is ready to smoke; no need to age these treasures. Producing very rich flavors, I think the addition of Cameroon in the filler was brilliant. The Salutem smoked well all the way to the end. Well rolled cigars do not get bitter at the end because they don’t get soft and allow too much air in. I think consistency in construction is one of Torano’s best attributes. Overall I think this is one of the best cigars of the year and will see much success. I highly recommend the Torano Salutem. I salute Torano for their ongoing mission to bring us the very best cigars.

Alex, Kevin, Micah, Charlie, Miguel and me at The Party Source Torano Cigar Dinner.

Air Bender by La Flor Dominicana Review

Air Bender by La Flor Dominicana

Author: Eric Brown

The long awaited release of La Flor Dominicana Air Bender is finally here; released to just four select retailers prior to its national debut. Air Bender sports an Ecuadorian Cuban seed Habano wrapper and is the brainchild of Master Blender and co-owner of La Flor Dominicana, Litto Gomez. Previous releases from La Flor Dominicana with the Ecuadorian Habana were the Habano Corona, Habano Perfecto and the 95 rated Solomon. The name Air Bender comes from Litto’s love of Kung Fu movies made popular recently with Japanese Anime and The Last Air Bender.


Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano

Binder: Dominican

Filler: Dominican


Matatan: 5 x 50

Guerrero: 6.25 x 54

Maestro: 5.5 x 52

Valiente: 6.25 x 60


At first inspection one would think the Air Bender is too tight; in fact the Air Benders burn quite well. The dark brown flawless Habano wrapper smells wonderfully rich with no sign of ammonia. Inspection of the foot reveals very dense yet well proportioned filler. The head is smooth with a beautiful cap.
The Drink: Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Yr Rum

The Smoke: 5×50 Matatan

It gets harder and harder to review cigars as the temperature drops, I smoked two of these beauties back to back in my recliner while the temperature outside was hovering around a balmy 15 degrees. I was very worried about smoking the Air Bender so quickly after receiving them after their voyage from the Dominican Republic. My concerns were laid to rest when after the laborious lighting of the densely filled robusto drew like a dream and I did not hear the dreadful cracking of the wrapper. Not too loose and not too stiff, just the way I like it. The first half inch was one of the spiciest yet smooth experiences I have ever had in a cigar.

Thankfully the Air Bender dropped a bit in strength revealing some nutty flavors as well as some creaminess that I’m guessing comes from the Habano wrapper. The first time I tasted while exhaling through my nose was intense but became more pleasant toward the middle of the cigar. There are distinct characteristics in Litto’s cigars that are quite noticeable but very hard to describe; very rich sweet flavors almost like a bold Cabernet. Rich creamy flavored drinks like rum, Bourbon or even a bold Porter or Chocolate Stout would complement the intense flavors coming from the Air Bender. I liked the amount of smoke I was getting and that the smoke was not too dry.

The Rum I was drinking went very well and I recommend this for all of La Flor Dominicana’s stronger cigars; it just goes so well. The Air Bender smoked very well all the way down to the nub where it started to gain its spice back. Ammonia started to show up and it got dry but I smoked that cigar for all that it was worth till burning fingers forced the end. Not to worry, I just fired up #2.

Although the Air Bender is not the strongest or spiciest cigar ever made, in the words of Litto “it is not a sissy cigar”!

I would have to agree.

CUBAO #5 Maduro

I sat down to smoke the Cubao Maduro #5 on one of the most beautiful evenings In mid October one can wish for. I was sitting by a fire and my drink of choice was Old Forrester 86 proof on the rocks. The Cubao Maduro is not the darkest Maduro I’ve seen but is packed full or richness. Construction was firm and the pre-light draw was stiff yet consistent with Pepin made Cigars.

As with the Cubao Sumatra Oscuro, the Maduro started big and spicy but mellowed toward the middle half of the smoke. This works for me because the ice in my Bourbon had not melted yet, leaving a richer caramel flavor to stand up to the spice. The draw was near perfect; on the stiffer side. Loose drawing cigars for me tend to heat up quickly and enhance bitter and dry flavors which I do not enjoy. The ash was dark grey with dark black rings, it held very well.

The second half of the Cubao Maduro was exceptional, medium to full body with toasted nut flavors with a bit of sweetness offered up most certainly by the Maduro Wrapper. I smoked the Cubao Maduro down to the nub until it started getting too hot; of course it got a little bitter towards the end letting me know it was over.

Overall I loved this cigar; however, the Cubao Maduro will get better with several more months of age on them. Don’t put them down too long though; you’ll miss out on all the powerful flavors the blender intended for you.

I highly recommend the Cubao Maduro, another great offering from our friends Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega of EO Brands.

Choosing the perfect cigar!

The Padron 1926. My Idea of the perfect cigar!

Author: Eric Brown

When I’m choosing a cigar, the most important qualities are burn and construction. If it doesn’t smoke, flavor means nothing. I can’t tell you how many times, the only cigar I had with me had a plug, unraveled or was rolled too loose. By carefully inspecting potential cigars one can drastically reduce the amount of sub-par cigars that find their way into your humidor.

The first thing I do is to inspect the humidor to see if humidity and temperature are sufficient. A well-kept humidor means well-kept cigars and shows the level of dedication to quality the tobacconist has. If the tobacconist is nearby, ask questions about quality, flavor and cigars that you may need to know about. A good tobacconist should hear all the good as well as the bad reports from their customers.

There are many red flags to look for that will indicate poor construction or damage due to customers that may have handled the cigar incorrectly before you. Shoppers tend to squeeze cigars to see if they are fresh. Softness is an indication of poor construction, not freshness. A soft cigar allows much more air into the cigar causing it to burn hot and fast. When one squeezes a cigar, damage may occur to the wrapper, binder (wrapper binding the bunch or filler) and to the gum that holds the wrapper together at the head. Do not squeeze or roll cigars between your fingers.

When inspecting cigars we are looking for cracks in the wrapper, especially on the edges of the seams. After the cigar is lit the cigar will tend to expand causing these small cracks to split the wrapper. If this happens, the cigar may unravel. Cigars are often dropped by customers causing cracks near the head and foot of a cigar. Make sure to inspect these areas before you buy.

Cellophane has done a lot to curb damage to cigars; it also has its drawbacks. While cellophane protects cigars from damage, it also can make it very difficult to spot potential problems. Look very carefully at cigars with cellophane. Another drawback is the inability to smell the cigar through the cellophane. Although it is important to smell a cigar, there is no need to touch the cigar to your nose. When handling a cigar never touch the head with your fingers or your nose as this is the end that will end up in someone’s mouth. What we are smelling for is not just flavor but also for ammonia that has not been aged out of the cigar. Ammonia can make for a rather nasty flavor. I do take the cellophane off before the cigars hit my humidor.

Some cigars may be rolled with disproportionate filler. This means there is not an even amount of filler leaf throughout the cigar. This will cause the cigar to burn faster in the area were there is less filler. Sometimes a good torch lighter can help; however, I would prefer to avoid this altogether. I know I have stated previously to never squeeze cigars; it is ok to put slight pressure on them to identify problems such as an uneven fill. Cigars with an uneven fill can be identified by noting spots in the cigar that are softer than others. An experienced smoker can also identify these cigars by visually inspecting the body and foot of the cigar.

Plugs are also a problem faced by most cigar aficionados. A plug is a portion of the cigar that has too much filler causing a stoppage of air flow. My opinion at this point is to throw the cigar away or bring it back to your tobacconist. There are items on the market to help deal with plugs but I am more concerned with decreasing the likelihood of encountering plugs.

Bloom is a naturally occurring phenomenon when a cigar has aged well in a perfect environment. Bloom is a white powdery substance formed by the natural oils of the cigar and is visible on the wrapper. We should not confuse Bloom with the bluish or green colored mold. As companies cellophane more and more cigars and customers are allowed to handle them, bloom is not as common as it used to be. I have encountered bloom most frequently with Tubos or cigars packed in glass or alloy tubes.

People say I‘m very picky and meticulous when it comes to my cigars….YES I AM!

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