Stephen Griffiths Cigar, Real Ale Video Blog

Bolivar Belicosos Finos - Cigars Being Smoked

Date Posted: 1st June 2013

Yesterday evening I treated myself to a Bolivar Belicosos Finos from a box that I had recently purchased. I've been a fan of the Belicosos Finos but had always found myself going for the Partagas Serie P No. 2 when I fancied a Piramide shaped Cigar. But I've been out of the loop the last couple of months when it came to the Bolivar brand and fancied a smoke from that brand.

The Bolivar is regarded one of the fullest bodied brands to come out of Cuba however the Belicosos Finos I find is one of milder Cigars within the range. However, past form was blown out of the water as I found this Cigar to be a powerhouse, full out Bolivar-esque flavours.

This Belicosos Finos came from a box that was dated from May 2011, so it's had a good two years of aging inside the cabinet however during that time the Cigar seems to have not mellowed one bit. Plenty of leather, earth, with a hint of underlining sweetness that only showed itself in small doses throughout the smoke.

I was totally knocked back at how much strength this particular Belicosos Finos had. To be honest this strength was making the Cigar one I wasn't enjoying as much as I hoped. I find Bolivar Cigars, when they are at their best to be full bodied, but still well balanced. This Cigar was full bodied, but did not have any kind of complexity that I had hoped. The Cigar was looking to hit home runs or a six at every draw and I found that a little off putting.

Overall, a little disappointing that the Cigar was too over the top, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully in a couple of years the Cigar may mellow slightly to allow some of the complexities I was hoping for come through. But at the rate I smoke through boxes, I doubt this cabinet will have be housing any Cigars left by the end of 2014. Oh dear.

Partagás Serie D No. 4 - Cigars Being Smoked

Date Posted: 22nd March 2013

Wednesday night I decided to be a little impatient and crack open my recently purchased box of Partagas Serie D No. 4, with a box date of JUN 2012. These have only been resting in my humidor for a few days, but the temptation was too great and I buckled into the Partagas leathery pressure. When I started smoking in 2006, the Partagas Serie D No. 4 was one of the first Cigars that I fell in love with. Big flavours that made you stand up and take notice. Plenty of things going on in terms of complexity that made you take a step back and make you take this hobby a little more seriously.

Well, when it got to around to 2009 or so I found that less and less of the D No. 4's were hitting those high points that I had experienced when I first started out and therefore I slowly migrated over to other vitolas as my go to's. Over the last year however I've been hearing good things about recent production so I had to take the chance and purchase a box.

The construction of the Cigars are fantastic. Draw perfect and the burn was steadfast and sure of itself. For such a young Cigar, the flavours, although a little two dimensional, were big on the leathery front, with some earth settling underneath. There was some pepper in the finish but it was somewhere up in the Gods. I think back in 2006 to 2008 there was a little more white pepper in the finish, but that could be my mind playing tricks on me.

Great Cigar for so young. Give these a few years and the Cigar will mature into a well rounded powerhouse! I doubt this box will be ageing for a few years however, as no doubt these will be smoked relatively quickly for 'research purposes' ;-)

Another box purchase will have to be made soon. 92/100

Cohiba Behike 56 - Cigars Being Smoked

Date Posted: 19th March 2013

I had a cause for celebration on Sunday as it was my partner and I four year anniversary. What better way to celebrate is with a Cigar and some Champagne? The Cigar in question was the Cohiba Behike 56. Pairing the smoke will be a Bollinger Special Cuvee Champagne.

The Behike has been resting in my humidor for over a year. The Cigar originally came in a case alongside the Behike 52 and 54. However those two Cigar's have been long smoked; and how great were they. From the top of my head the 52 received 93 points from myself, while the 54 was given a whopping 96 points. One of the best Cigars I have smoked in a good few years.

Onto the smoking... well, lets get the technicalities of the smoke out of the way. The burn was razor sharp, no problems in that department. The draw was nearly spot on perfect. I felt that it may have been a touch loose, but it was far from a wind tunnel, so no issues there. The flavour profile of the Cigar disappointed me a little. While the Behike 52 and 54 hit the ground running, it took the 56 somewhat into the second third for the flavour profile to start kicking in. This Cigar doesn't seem as if it delivers on flavour as it's Behike brothers...

The flavours of the Behike 56 were typical Cohiba. That grassiness, along with a little bit of honey and caramel. However, the flavour I associate with the medio tiempo leaf that is only used within the blending of the Cohiba Behike range did appear, but no-where as prominent as I remembered from other smaller sized Behike's that I remembered.

Scoring, I can't really give this Cigar anymore than 91/100. Do I feel that I'm being a little harsh with the scoring? Possibly... but a Cigar of this price point needs to deliver and I felt it just did not hit those high notes that I'd expect of the vitola. At least the 52 and 54's are good.

Diplomaticos Seleccion Privida - Cigars Being Smoked

Date Posted: 16th March 2013

Smoked a Diplomaticos Seleccion Privida that I have been gifted in the last week or so. I have two in my possession so the second one will be smoked this weekend as basis of a full blown review (with all the trimmings... mmmm trimmings).

Most of you would probably know that the Seleccion Privida is a Regional Edition that was specifically made for the Spanish market in 2012. The Cigar finally got released at the tail end of 2012, and they come in wooden boxes of ten. Five thousand boxes made in all. This is the first Diplomaticos Regional Edition. Good to see IMO.

First thing I'd like to mention is that in hindsight was smoking the Cigar at the wrong time of the day. This was in the evening after a somewhat large meal with a glass of red wine. No doubt the flavour profile had possibly been tainted somewhat by my palette being over exposed with the food and drink I had consumed in the last few hours.

However, the Cigar itself when it came down to smoking sure did have that Diplomaticos flavour profile. Nougat, marshmallow, cream and nutty flavours came to the fore. There was even some mild spiciness there. The Cigar being a short Robusto, looked a bit odd being a Diplomaticos, but was an interesting smoke nonetheless. The Cigar was a bit "bonkers" over the period I smoked it, the flavours flying back and fore. A little time to rest will hopefully tame the flavours within. The Cigar got a little harsh and toasty towards the end, but overall was quite enjoyable. A good after-lunch smoke I'd recommend. With this vitola, you feel sometimes that by the time you're in fifth gear and enjoying the smoke the Cigar is nearly over, and this is what happened here. The mid section and towards the final third were pretty good.

Good smoke, no doubt better when it gets the rest it deserves.

86/100

Romeo y Julieta Mille Fleurs - Cigars Being Smoked

Date Posted: 13th March 2013

Tuesday evening I smoked a young-ish Romeo y Julieta Mille Fleurs. I can't remember the box code, but I'm sure if was the second half of 2012. I paired the stick with some Assam Tea and got to work smoking the Cigar.

Draw perfect with no burn issues. I find that the Romeo Mille Fleurs need more time to develop than a Partagas Mille Fleurs. A 2012 Party Mille Fleurs is certainly a more enjoyable smoke than a Romeo IMO. I think you need a good few years (at least 3), before the Cigar is smoke-able from the box. I like that deep tobacco (how do you describe it?) profile of the Mille Fleurs, but it was covered by a harsh veil of flavour that will need to dissipate before the Cigar becomes something worthwhile to smoke.

84/100

Montecristo No. 5 and Ramon Allones Superiors

Date Posted: 6th December 2012

I've always been a fan of the Montecristo flavour profile, the 'twang' along with coffee and chocolate notes. With it being winter and all, I felt the No. 5, would be the perfect size for a short smoke, and with the overall improvement of quality of the Montecristo marca in the last five years, it just reinforced my choice.

The box code for the Montecristo No. 5 is ATO ABR 11, so the Cigars are relatively young. This forty minute smoke will hopefully be a good companion for myself during the cold December and January months.

A box of Montecristo No. 5
An open box of Montecristo No. 5

The second box I purchased was the Ramon Allones Superiors. Available exclusively at all La Casa del Habano worldwide, these were released in 2010. I've never smoked a Ramon Allones Superiors before. The experience I'd ideally would like is a smoother, more refined version of the Ramon Allones Specially Selected. Because of the size of the Superiors, I doubt I'll smoke any until mid next year, when the British Summer (hopefully) kicks in. There are still plenty of the Ramon Allones Superiors about, and like many other La Casa del Habano releases are reasonably priced.

A dress box of ten Ramon Allones Superiors
An open box of ten Ramon Allones Superiors

Looking forward towards next year, I'm hoping to replenish my humidor with some bigger sticks in anticipation for warmer weather, where I can sit out in the back garden of my new house, sipping an alcoholic beverage while smoking a fine Cigar. I'm still debating however what Cigars I'll purchase however, I've narrowed down the list to the following:

  • Bolivar - Coronas Gigantes
  • Ramon Allones - Gigantes
  • Montecristo - No. 2
  • Partagas - 8-9-8 (Varnished)

I've tried to keep within the brands that I enjoy the most, and they tend to be the medium to full bodied Cigars, such as Bolivar, Partagas & Ramon Allones. The Bolivar Coronas Gigantes and Ramon Allones Gigantes I've smoked many times before, and never disappoint. I've always been a little reluctant to buy a box of Montecristo No. 2's, mainly because of the Cigar not being up to scratch. However, with the improvement of the Montecristo brand across the board in the last few years, I'm going to go for it and jump at buying a box.

The 8-9-8 is the jewel in the Partagas crown. A Lonsdale, the 8-9-8 should fit the bill where I'd like a good that will last in excess of an hour.

So that's it for box purchases for now... roll on the new year!

New In The Humidor - Partagas Aristocrats

Date Posted: 11th September 2012

A few days after a box of Bolívar Coronas Junior arrived, now a second box of my winter smokes has arrived, a box of Partagás Aristocrats. I first fell in love with this rustic looking Cigar back in April, when I smoked a few singles that I had bought in Amsterdam.

While it's a good idea to have an arsenal of small Cigars for those cold outdoors, it's also advantageous to have some cheaper sticks available. The Partagás Aristocrats, while cheaper than many of it's brother's, still delivers in Partagás-esque flavours.

The box date for this box is May 2011, so the Cigars will have at least a year and half worth of ageing to their name. Look out for a review in the forthcoming days.

Aristocrats

Factory Name: Petit Cetros Ring Gauge: 40 Length (mm): 129mm
Partagas Aristocrats Partagas Aristocrats Partagas Aristocrats Partagas Aristocrats

New In The Humidor - Bolivar Coronas Junior

Date Posted: 9th September 2012

As we move into Autumn, my thoughts turn to the Cigars that I need to stock up on to carry me through the cold, dark evenings. My first box purchase of September arrived on Friday evening, a box of Bolivar Coronas Junior.

The shortest Cigar in the Bolivar portfolio, the Coronas Junior measures in at 110mm and 42 ring gauge.

Bolívar Coronas Junior
Factory Name: Minutos Ring Gauge: 42 Length (mm): 110mm
Packaging Type Launch Year Notes
Dress Box of 25 Pre-Revolution
View more information on the Bolívar Coronas Junior
Bolívar Coronas Junior Bolívar Coronas Junior Bolívar Coronas Junior Bolívar Coronas Junior

I have a soft spot for Bolivar's, notably the Petit Coronas and Coronas Extras. But on a whim, I decided to go for a shorter format version. The box date is May 2012, less than six months old. Whether the Coronas Juniors are in their sick period, I don't know. One way to find out it to smoke one and post a review. :-)

Bombed by Nathan and the G-Man

Date Posted: 29th May 2012

Hey all, just taking some time out to tell you all about two Cigar Bombs that have landed on my door step in the last two weeks!

G-Man and his quad Cigar bomb!

First up, G-Man, a brother of the leaf who is active on many Cigar forums across Cyber space, bombed me four interesting stogies from across the pond.

Each of the four Cigars are different and quirky in their own right. First up, the biggest of the bunch, Big Boy, is a behemoth of a Cigar. Next, is the 147 Tax Evader, a torpedo shaped Cigar.

Last but not least, the smallest Cigar in the package is the Stugot. This little Devil is named after Tony Soprano's boat from the Sopranos. Allegedly Stugot is the Italian for Balls!. Lets hope that these Stugot's don't have a salty twang to them...

G-Man's Four Cigar Bomb.
G-Man's Four Cigar Bomb.

Nathan's Stugot and Bolivar Bolívar Finos bomb!

Fellow Welshman Nathan sent an interesting package of Cuban and Non-Cuban Cigars the last week. I was really happy to find in the package a Bolívar Belicosos Finos. One of the most interesting in the Bolivar marquee, I'm looking forward to not only smoking this beautiful looking Cigar, but reviewing it also!

Second up in Nathan's sneaky little package is a couple of Stugot's. In a stretch of two weeks, I've been bombed a couple of Stugots from two locations... reading from posts online they've had a good number of positive reviews. One thing for certain, I'm not one to shy way from getting my face on camera and spill out my thoughts onto YouTube. Yessir... video review coming it's way!

A Bolívar Belicosos Finos and two Stugot's.
A Bolívar Belicosos Finos and two Stugot's.

New in the Humidor - Partagás Serie du Connaisseur No. 3

Date Posted: 16th May 2012

Yesterday I managed to obtain a few singles of a recently discontinued Cigar from the Partagás line. The Partagás Serie du Connaisseur No. 3 was sadly discontinued in 2010, as part of Habanos SA strategy to cull a large number of thin ring gauge Cigars.

The whole Serie du Connaisseur line discontinued in 2010, however boxes are relatively easy to come by if you spend the time looking for them. Well regarded within the Cigar community, the Serie de Connaisseur range consists of three Partagás Cigars, all that have a thin ring gauge and is longish in length.

Here is a quick video blog that I made just to explain a little more regarding the Partagás Serie du Connaisseur No. 3:

Look forward here on SteveGriff.com for a Cigar Review of the Partagás Serie du Connaisseur No. 3 in the forthcoming days...

Celebrating 108 years with the Spanish Bolívar Regional Edition

Date Posted: 6th May 2012

Along with the Rafael González Perlas, I managed to obtain a few singles of the Bolívar 108, the 2010 Regional Edition for Spain.

When I received the Bolívar 108, I was surprised with the shade of wrapper. With the brands that are known for their bolder flavour profile, you'd expect the wrappers to be dark and brooding. With the Bolívar 108's however, the shade is light and transparent. It would be interesting to find out if all the wrappers are of this shade, or the Bolívar 108's that I received were from a box of lighter shade Cigars.

When I first read about the Bolívar 108, I wondered "why 108?" What's with that number? Well, it's to celebrate the 108 years since the founding of the Bolívar brand. It tickled me a bit, as it seems the Cubans love to make every year a celebration. Well, I'm cool with that.

I've always been a sucker for the Corona Gorda size, and here we are with the Bolívar 108. A regional edition will never be able to replace a regular production stick. I'll have to continue to mourn the Bolivar Corona Extra for a little while longer, until Habanos SA decide to fill that gap.

I've shot a little video blog just to look at the Bolívar 108 in a little more detail:

Look forward here on SteveGriff.com for a Cigar Review of the Bolívar 108 in the forthcoming days...

Cigar Arrivals - Montecristo Open Master and Cohiba EL 2001 Piramides

Date Posted: 25th April 2012

Over the last few days I have received two Cigars from two different people which I am thankful for.

I have written some of my thoughts that were conveyed in my video blog post below:

Montecristo Open - Master

Launched in 2009, the Montecristo Open series has been aimed squarely at the novice smoker. Early reviews of the whole range had been at best lukewarm. However, word has spread that because of the poor sales of the Open series, that there is plenty of aged stock to be had. And the good news is that the first production of the Montecristo Open series between 2009 and early 2010 have started to smoke well.

When I heard this news, I decided that I had to revisit the Open series, and smoke for myself to find out if this is the truth or not. Luckily enough, I was put in touch with a fellow brother of the leaf who was happy to trade two Montecristo Open Master with myself for two other Cuban Cigars.

Montecristo Open Master

I'm looking forward in positing a little review of the Montecristo Open Master and posting it here on the website in the forthcoming weeks.

Cohiba - Piramides - Limited Edition 2001

The second Cigar I've received is the Cohiba Piramides, the Limited Edition for 2001. Many thanks goes to Steve Murray, AKA SerieSteve who runs the Aye Aye Reviews website and Youtube Channel for sending the Cohiba down my way.

I'm drooling at the thought of smoking this Cigar. I've never tried any of the Limited Editions from the early years of the programme. This will be an experience that I am looking forward to immensely.

Cohiba Limited Edition 2001 Piramides

Trinidad Discontinuation - First Thoughts

Date Posted: 24th April 2012

The big news of the day is that the Trinidad range of Cigars is to be discontinued. Although very sad news, the writing has been on the wall for a while now, in fact ever since the announcement last year that the Robusto T and the Robusto Extra will be discontinued sometime in 2012.

I'm currently writing an opinion piece for my website looking at the brand more in depth and why it has been discontinued. But for now, I have placed a quick video blog on my feelings regarding the announcement:

Like I mentioned in the video, if you do find a box from mid 2011, then I would strongly recommend that you purchase a box. You will not be disappointed.

A Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Date Posted: 22nd April 2012

It's been a somewhat busy Sunday. Off to the gym in the morning to build up a sweat, then off shopping, and then the ritual of cleaning up the pig sty that I call home.

I've just had the time to log onto the computer and see what's going on in the world of Cigars. First thing to point out, I don't think I've seen so many pictures of new release United Kingdom Regional Editions in the first week than with the Bolívar Británicas. Looks like every UK based Cigar aficionado who likes his or her fuller bodied Cubans has gone out and purchased a box.

There has been a lot of discussion on how good these Bolívar Británicas actually are, and whether they are better than the La Flor de Cano Short Robusto, the 2010 United Kingdom Regional Edition. The general consensus is that the Short Robusto is the best UK Regional Edition released so far, and I would just about agree. I would give the La Flor de Cano a point more than the Bolívar Británicas in scores. But there's no doubt about it, the Británicas is a great Cigar, and the people who have already bought singles and boxes will not be disappointed.

Back to the here and now. I'm looking forward to just chill this evening with a nice big Cigar, and what better way in doing so than with a Montecristo No. 2! I've always been a fan of the Montecristo brand. The bean flavours (vanilla, cocoa, coffee) are just out of this world when they are on. However, the brand has been a victim of it's own success, over-production has resulted in inconsistency over the last ten years or so. However, at least with the Montecristo No. 2, things seem to be getting back on track.

Pairing the No. 2, it's going to be a beer. I definitely hear the beer 'o clock bell ringing. I've got a couple of bottles of Ringwood Brewery Boondoggle ready to quench this first.

A Montecristo No. 2 and a Ringwood Brewery Boondoggle

What are you guys smoking tonight?

Tonight's Smoke - Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill

Date Posted: 19th April 2012

As some of my more regular readers would know, I'm quite fond of Thursday Nights, most because there's something on the TV that I'm actually interested in. Cold me a boring old git, but I enjoy sitting in front of the TV and tune in to Question Time and This Week.

There's nothing like a little bit of political banter, and hey, Andrew Neil enjoy's his Montecristo No. 2. That reminds me, if you're looking for a good hour and a half smoke from 2011, you can't go wrong with the Montecristo No. 2, they're delicious at the moment! Loads of bean flavours.

The big question is, what am I going to smoke? Well, I'm finding it difficult to stop thinking about the Bolívar Británicas, the newly released Regional Edition for the United Kingdom. I managed to smoke one last night, and it was utterly delicious. My review of the Bolívar Británicas is available here if you're interested.

I think I've made up my mind. The Bolívar Británicas will be spared for one more night. However I want to smoke one of them again very soon, so I can make comparisons and whether that I got an out of the ordinary stick. Anyway, instead, tonight's smoke will be a Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill.

It must be a good year and a half since my last Short Churchill. Time flies. Let's not make it such a gap next time...

A Romeo y Julieta Churchill ready to smoke.
A Romeo y Julieta Churchill ready to smoke. R.I.P. Levon Helm.

Sunday Morning Smoking - El Rey de Mundo Choix Supreme

Date Posted: 15th April 2012

I don't usually dive into the Humidor and pick up a Cigar for a quick morning smoke. Today however, whether it was the planet's aligning or the just the girlfriend being at work, I decided to spark up a stogie.

One of my favourite daytime smokes is the El Rey de Mundo Choix Supreme. For some reason, I always think of this light to medium bodied Cigar as a sunrise smoke. It has very light, tingly flavours that make you want to feel good and get moving. Some Cigars are there to end the evening on. This is the kind of Cigar to get you started.

The flavour profile is mainly a summery mix of honey, floral notes, with some creaminess. I love this smoke. Because it's not a powerhouse or a Cohiba it sometimes get forgotten. These will make an excellent addition to your humidor.

Fresh on these shores and already the Bolívar Britanicas are getting people talking

Date Posted: 12th April 2012

They have only been on UK shores for the last few days, and already the Bolivar Britanicas are causing a ripple of excitement throughout the UK Cigar smoking community.

The only retailer who have the Bolivar Britanias in stock currently is the La Casa de Habanos in Teddington, London. Because they are a Casa, the store receives Regional and Limited Editions around a week earlier than other retailers. Also, they are able to stock and sell La Casa de Habanos exclusive Cigars, like the H. Upmann Royal Robusto and the Partagas Salamones.

Whether the Bolivar Britanicas lives up to the hype is another matter. I'm hoping to purchase a few singles for review in the next few days. It will be interesting to see if they are Bolivar-esque in flavour and whether the perfecto shape of the Cigar brings anything to the table.

I'll be looking to smoke the Bolivar Britanicas with an open mind. Regional Editions sometime disappoint. Sometimes they are great. The Por Larranaga Regalias del Londres; poor. The La Flor de Cano Short Robusto; good. I'm hoping the Britanicas has a good amount of Bolivar 'kick', with nice earthy and leather flavours, that indicate that there's enough going on there so they can be aged for a few years.

The price point for the Bolivar Britanicas is 'fair'. For around £14 a stick, they should be in reach for anyone who wants to buy two or three singles to smoke when they fancy something a little special. Fingers crossed that they have a certain specialness to them.

It will be interesting when the blogging and reviewing community along with the general Cigar smoker get their hands on this Regional Edition. I'm looking forward to hearing about how this Cigar is smoking and what the general concensus is.

I'll be writing about everyone's thoughts on this blog. Watch this space.

A weekend trip to Amsterdam

Date Posted: 22nd March 2012

This weekend I'll be taking a short weekend trip to Amsterdam, as part of a stag do. Inbetween all the drinking, debauchery and possible cakes I'll be taking some timeout to visit two Cigar stores in this famous city.

P.G.C. Hajenius

Approximately ten to fifteen minutes from the hotel where I am staying, P.G.C. Hajenius looks to be one elegant place for a Cigar. If you have five minutes to spare, browse their website and take a look at some of the images of their store. I don't think I've ever seen such a beautiful interior for a good Cigar. Europe's oldest Cigar House, Hajenius was started in 1915.

Outside the P.G.C Hajenius store in Amsterdam
Outside the P.G.C Hajenius store in Amsterdam
Inside P.G.C Hajenius store in Amsterdam
Inside P.G.C Hajenius store in Amsterdam

Davidoff of Geneva

Out of the two Cigar stores, the Davidoff shop is the furthest away from the Hotel, and therefore could be difficult for me to get to during the weekend.

However, if I do get the chance, I will definitely try and fit in a visit, even if it's only for an hour or so.

El Rey de Mundo NL No. 1 - 2011 Netherlands Regional Edition

The other reason I have of visiting at least one of these Cigar stores is to purchase a box of the 2011 Netherlands Regional Edition, the El Rey de Mundo NL No. 1.

Petit Robusto in size, it will be interesting to find out whether this Cigar has any similarities to the 2009 United Kingdom Regional Edition, the Choix de L'Epoque... I'm hoping that the base flavour profile may be similar, but just more refined. I found the UK Regional Edition a little disappointing. Hopefully this one is better.

I'll let you know when I get back from Amsterdam, how it goes, and what Cigars I do decide to buy.

Superbowl Cigars and Beers

Date Posted: 5th February 2012

It's Superbowl time, so it's one of those night's where I get to smoke more than one Cigar to accompany me through three hours of American Football.

Being an Eagles fan I have nothing much to cheer for. I'd prefer to see the Patriots take it. All I'm expecting is an exciting game, however with the pressure of the occasion it may turn out to be a let down. Who knows? Hope I'm wrong.

Tonight I've got a few Cigars and Beer's planned. Nothing too fancy, but tasty enough all the same. First up is the Partagas Serie P No. 2. One of my favourite Cigar's from the Partagas brand and is always consistent.

Second up the Ramon Allones Specially Selected. I've had a box resting in my humidor for the last month or so. It's about time I broke one of them out of it's slumber and light it up!

Two Cigars - Ramon Allones Specially Selected and Partagas Serie P No. 2

Drink's wise I've got nothing out of the ordinary, just a bottle of Theakston's Old Peculiar and Ringwood Brewery Old Thumper. I have a bottle of Dark Star Imperial Stout too that I may open up at the end of the night. Looking forward to an exciting night's football.

Two Beers - Ringwood Brewery Old Thumper and Theakston's Old Peculiar

Rugby Six Nations, Personal Fitness and a Montecristo Petit Edmundo

Date Posted: 5th February 2012

I'm sitting here watching the first match of Wales' campaign in this year's Rugby Six Nations against Ireland. And I have a smile on my face because of three things - not only because Wales just scored a Try (nice one Jonathan) and that I'm about to light up a Montecristo Petit Edmundo, but I've had another good workout in the gym this afternoon.

I spent one hour and sixteen minutes on the treadmill, managing to run in total fourteen kilometres. I've been slowly building the length of time I have been running from forty five minutes to an hour and now a hour and fifteen minutes over the last four months or so. You may think I'm crazy running that length of time, but stick some of your favourite songs on your portable music player and just start running!

Although I don't drink or eat as much as one would think. I do like a good Beer however I'm far from being a session drinker. Give me three or four pints and it's goodnight Vienna. However, it's important that when you portray yourself as one who enjoys alcoholic drinks and Cigars that you look after yourself and ensure that you portray the industry your representing in it's best light. Remember, It's important that you look after yourself and not to push that stereotype as Beer drinkers with big bellies.

So I exercise as much as possible for a couple of reasons. Along with overall fitness, I can fit into good clothes and feel good about myself, it's important to ensure that you look after yourself generally.

Maybe this blog post has gone a little off track. It's twenty minutes into the Rugby match and I have yet to light up the Petit Edmundo. But sometimes it's nice to blow your own trumpet per se when it comes to your personal goals and targets.

Right, back to this Petit Edmundo and the Six Nations...

Montecristo Petit Edmundo

Por Larrañaga Petit Corona and Sherlock... a perfect match

Date Posted: 16th January 2012

One of my favourite times to relax is in front of the television with a good Cigar and a beverage to pair it with. Sunday night's over the last three weeks have been excellent, because of the BBC Drama Sherlock was back for a second series.

I very rarely slouch in front of the television. Therefore when I do decide to watch something, it's a programme I really would like to view. Therefore, I find it important to make a small event out of the whole thing and make sure I grab a good Cigar and a nice beverage.

In this case tonight I decided to go for a Por Larranaga Petit Corona, paired with Black Sheep Brewery's Riggwelter.

I've always been a fan of the Por Larranaga Petit Corona. When I purchased my first cabinet of 50 of these back in 2006 I immediately fell in love with the flavour profile of light caramel, cream and woody notes. I would say that they're not as well constructed as the Bolivar Petit Corona, however in terms of flavour the Por Larranaga is such a lovely smoke.

There's always been debate on how long should you let the Por Larranaga age before you should start tucking into your cabinet of fifty. From my experience, anything with at least six months of age is smokeable, unless of course you're unlucky enough to have bought a batch going through the sick period. If you leave them to age for over a year or more, you should be rewarded greatly with greater complexity when it comes to sweetness and fading harshness.

What would I rate the Por Larranaga that I smoked last night? I've smoked around six now from the box I bought around a month ago, and I would say this was the best one yet. I solidly gave it 92 out of 100. A beautiful Cigar. Impressive. I can't wait for these to age during the forthcoming months. However, at this rate, I can't see them lasting much past Spring...

A 96 Point Cigar - The Cohiba Behike 54

Date Posted: 12th January 2012

Sometimes you smoke a Cigar that you know is special however you try and keep the sense of anticipation and excitement down to a minimum because in the back of your head, you know that you're going to be a little disappointed.

We've all been there. A friend of yours has suggested this newest release, straight from the roller's table, that's meant to the best thing since the triple cap. However, when you get round to smoking it, it's never as wonderful as everyone else had made it out to be.

Well, was I surprised.

The other night I decided to bust out a Cigar I've been saving for a certain moment in time where I can just relax and leave all of the world's troubles just pass me by. Luckily, it was a long weekend over the New Year's period and I had no pre-arranged chores to carry out. So it was time to get the Cohiba 54 out of the Presentation Pack and smoke the damn thing.

All three Cohiba Behike's resting on top of the presentation box they came in

With Thornbridge's Russian Imperial Stout and the Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage as company, I began.

Almost two hours later, the Behike was finished. All I can say is, what a Cigar. I've heard so many things about the Behike range, how much people had rated all three sizes. I've smoked two of the Behike 52 in the past, One I scored 92 and the 90, however this Cigar was in a different league. You know that heavenly plane that you don't get often in your smoking life but you know it when you're experiencing it? It was like that when I was smoking the 52.

I scored the Behike 54 96 points. With a couple of years of ageing this Cigar will be complete package. The only two things that held it slightly was the burn was a little off at some points during smoking, but were easily corrected. The other was there a little bit of complexity lacking in the final third however when the Cigar mellows a little in the next few years the strength will quieten down slightly, with the more subtle flavours coming through.

I've still got the 52 and the 56 to smoke from the box. I'm looking forward to trying the 56 just to see where it fits in relation to the 52 and 54. The 54 is stronger than the 52, so will the 56 be stronger? Or will it be more suave? One thing for certain, I can't wait to try it out!

Cuban Cigar Purchases for January 2012

Date Posted: 4th January 2012

Hello everyone, welcome to 2012! I hope you all enjoyed the Christmas and New Year's festivities. I'm sure you all had managed to smoke one of two great Cigars over the last few weeks. Hopefully you managed to find somewhere sheltered and warm to enjoy the Cigar you were smoking to it's fullest.

The last week I have managed to purchase a few new boxes of Cigars to add to my humidor. I'm just going to briefly run through what I've purchased and the reason why I like them.

Five boxes of Cuban Cigars - Romeo y Julieta Mille Fleurs, Montescristo Petit Edmundo, Por Larañaga Petit Coronas, Partagas Serie P No. 2 and Ramon Allones Specially Selected

Montecristo Petit Edmundo

One of my favourite short smokes of the last few years, the Montecristo Petit Robusto is strong, yet flavourful. Medium to full, the Petit Edmundo has Espresso and nutty characteristics. A perfect 45 minute smoke.

It's no secret that James Suckling loves this Cigar, and I do too. While it's bigger brother, the Edmundo has had a tarnished reputation due to it's smoking characteristics when it first came out, the Petit Edmundo has been consistently great ever since the vitola was launched in 2006.

Ramon Allones Specially Selected

Ever since I've started smoking Cigars back circa 2005/06, one Cigar that has always been highly regarded for being flavourful, dependable yet smokeable when young, and that is the Ramon Allones Specially Selected.

A Cigar that you should never be without in your humidor, the Specially Selected, along with the rest of the Ramon Allones range, are noted for it's deep, fruit flavours. One of the best Specially Selected that I smoked was back in 2007 (I think) in London from a cabinet of 50. (Thanks SerieSteve!) I believe that the cabinet had been ageing for around 10 years. The initial punch of the Cigar had mellowed, leaving a lovely fruits of the forests, stewed fruit profile. That was a 96/100 Cigar.

Por Larrañaga Petit Coronas - Cabinet of 50

An insider's Petit Corona, the Por Larrañaga is an interesting one. I've found that these need a little bit of time in the humidor to settle down before they are smokable. The last time I had a cabinet of 50 of these in the humidor was back in 2007 - I found that after a year they had transformed delightfully. What was a flavour profile of harsh tobacco with a metallic finish had changed to a much more rounded, creamy smoke.

Some people have said that these could do at least with five years in the humidor. I can definitely see where they are coming from. The way these start harshly from a young age and transform delightfully after a year nods towards great aging potential for the Por Larrañaga Petit Corona.

Partagas Serie P No. 2

While the Partagas D4 has floundered a little over the last few years when it comes to construction and smoking characteristics, I have found the many boxes I have had the privilege to smoke over the last five years to be highly consistent.

Romeo y Julieta Mille Fleurs

Back in October of last year, while in Hamburg, Germany, I was lucky to pick up a few singles of the Romeo y Julieta Mille Fleurs. A Petit Corona that was originally machine made but since 2002 have been solely handmade. The Mille Fleurs are cheaper than other Petit Coronas, therefore in my opinion are great value for money.

I was blown away with both the construction and flavour profile of the Mille Fleurs. All the Romeo y Julieta flavours were there, but they were right at the forefront. I can never describe exactly what the RyJ flavour profile is, but I guess it's somewhere between toasty tobacco flavours and

I've also been told that the Partagas Mille Fleurs are an even better smoke than the Romeo y Julieta's... no doubt they will be on my next Cigar shopping list!

Have you any box purchases in the pipeline?

If you're like me, and are looking to stock up for when the weather is a little better than now, then why not share with us what Cigars are you looking to purchase? Myself, now with the publicity regarding the Edition Limitedas have died down, I'm looking to purchase at least a box each of the Hoyo de Monterrey Short Piramides and Ramon Allones Allones Extra. Both Cigars are a little too young at the moment, however in as little as six months we both should already start becoming great Cigars.

Sancho Panza Escuderos Review on CigarInspector

Date Posted: 1st December 2011

I've recorded and written exclusively for CigarInspector, the popular Cigar Review site, a review of the Sancho Panza Escuderos the Regional Edition Cigar for Germany.

Alongside my written review, is my video review of the Sancho Panza Escuderos. Please feel free to post comments regarding my review. I always love hearing your thoughts about my review and the Cigar I'm reviewing!

One of two Regional Editions released for the German market in 2011, alongside the Juan Lopez Distinguidos, it's great to see the Sancho Panza brand in the Edicion Limiteda range.

So I would suggest that you head over to CigarInspector and watch / read my review of the Sancho Panza Escuderos now.

SteveGriff.com is now on Google+

Date Posted: 9th November 2011

The brand new, shiny Google+ has now opened it's doors to Organisations, Companies and Brands. If you're one of those Social Media embracing people, then you might like to add my Google+ pages to your circles.

  • Cigars & Beers - my Beers and Cigars Reviews & Articles Page.
  • Personal Profile - Will contain plenty of Cigar, Beer information, but will include other aspects of my day to day life. This includes Technology, Music, Release Management (my profession) and other ramblings.

So if you're Google+ inclined, then I'd suggest you get on there, sign up for an account, and start following Beer & Cigar related circles (including mine!).

La Flor de Cano Short Robusto – Cuban Cigar Purchases

Date Posted: 3rd August 2011

Well, I finally did it. After a few weeks of debating whether to splash out for a couple of these, I took the plunge. Today turned up three La Flor de Cano Short Robusto’s. Part of the 2010 Regional Edition Releases for the United Kingdom, the Short Robusto is a pint sized smoke.

Three La Flor de Cano Short Robusto’s resting on my computer keyboard.

Measuring in at 4 inches by 50 ring gauge, the La Flor de Cano Short Robusto looks to be a thirty to forty minute smoke, perfect if you want to knock back an Ale or two outside your local pub. I’m looking forward to finally video reviewing this Cigar. The initial impressions amongst the Cigar community is that they are a cracking smoke. However, I’ve heard from a few people that these are light in body, while others have mentioned that the Cigar leans towards being medium bodied. A perfect excuse to find out myself methinks!

Looking forward toward the review, I’m trying to think what would be the best drink pairing to compliment the Short Robusto? I’ve got a feeling a light, golden Ale might be the best bet. I’m hedging my bets, and sticking my neck out that this is going to be light in body, so the drink in question in itself will have to be delicate.

Just writing about this Cigar is starting to make me drool...

Bullmastiff Brewery's Son of a Bitch - A Friday night in town

Date Posted: 30th July 2011

After a hectic few days of work a walk into town for a pint of Bullmastiff Brewery Son of Bitch was in order. Paired with a Partagas Serie D No 4.

Friday was a pretty long day in work. Our major websites all were re-branded, that included a lot of checking and making sure we didn't miss anything. After getting out of the building at 7.30pm, off down into town I went.

Tonight's destination was the Gatekeeper in the middle of town, not far from the Millenium Stadium and opposite Clwb Ifor Bach. A JD Wetherspoons pub, there's always a good selection of Ale's available.

On tap tonight was Bullmastiff Brewery's Son of a Bitch. At 6% ABV, this is stronger than you're usual Ale's but not so much that it's a “one pint only" beer. Depending on the mood of the brewer I guess, but sometimes Son of a Bitch comes at 6.5% or 6.4%.

The Pub Clip for Bullmastiff Brewery's Son of a Bitch at the JD Wetherspoons Gatekeeper in Cardiff

The last time I sampled Son of a Bitch was the Carmarthen Beer Festival, at the end of last September. A regular every year at the Beer Festival, I always remember Son of a Bitch for having a sulphur and yeast aroma with some fruit, and sedate hop notes.

Pairing Son of Bitch, tonight I smoked a Partagas Serie D No. 4. I'm starting to like these again. I smoked a few of these two years ago and they were poor compared to the ones I smoked when I started four or five years ago. It looks as if the quality of this vitola is starting to improve again.

This evening's Son of a Bitch tasted pretty much the same. With such a name, you'd expect quite a powerful concoction of flavours. Not so. There's not much bitterness, or a hop zing. What you get is quite a mellow, fruity flavour. The alcohol content, while higher than you're usual bitter, doesn't have that alcohol kick that you'd think you would have.

Rating Son of a Bitch, I would give it a 6.75/10. Pretty average. There's not much happening with the flavours. It will be interesting when I try this again in two months time at the Carmarthen Beer Festival how it compares. And whether the alcohol volume is the same or it has increased.

City Arms Real Ale Tasting - Dark Star Espresso and Nelson Swashbuckler

Date Posted: 24th July 2011


This Saturday saw myself and the other half go down to the City Arms in the centre of Cardiff to try some of the Real Ale’s that they have available. The City Arms over the last few years has gained a following amongst Real Ale lovers in the capital due to the guest Ale’s they have in stock.

Along with the guest Ale’s, the City Arms run events, and even a Beer Club. Only two weeks ago they held a week long American Beer Festival, where they had a range of U.S. Beers on Tap, along with a selection of U.S. bottled beers.

This afternoon they had the following guest Ale’s on offer:

  • Idle Brewery - Idle Dog
  • Dark Star Brewing Company - Espresso
  • Nelson - Swashbuckler
  • Green Jack - Orange Wheat Beer (Unfortunately I did not have the time to sample this)

Pairing the first few pints, I smoked a delicious Partagas Serie D No. 4. This was slightly better than the one I smoked for my video review a few days earlier. The leather notes were here, with some coffee notes, and a tiny bit of cocoa. Scoring this Cigar, I would give this a 90.

Dark Star Brewing Company - Espresso

Well, the first beer that caught my eye was the Dark Star Brewing Company Espresso. I not sure why I was seduced into drinking this Stout as my first drink. Outside the sun was shining, the summer had briefly returned. This was not the cold November night that you’d be more inclined to drink such a warming Beer. However, I paid the bartender, and got my pint of Espresso.

First taste - wowsers! The common problem I find with any Stouts or Porters that have a coffee element, is that the coffee notes are too overpowering, leading to an unbalanced drink. However, Dark Star have the balance in the Espresso spot on. You can taste the coffee notes in this, but they’re not right in your face. Exceptional. I like the subtle flavours. There’s not much fruit flavours here, Espresso is in the chocolate / coffee camp and for this, the beer knows what it needs to deliver and does it very very well.

At 4.2% ABV, this isn’t a strong Stout by any means, but what Dark Star are trying to offer here is an easy drinking, any time of the year Beer. When Espresso is this good, then this deserves to be offered all year round.

Dark Star Espresso with a Partagas Serie D No. 4

Espresso goes pretty well with the Partagas Serie D No. 4. The coffee notes of the Stout goes very well with the leather and coffee notes of the Cigar. Thinking about what would be the dream pairing for Dark Star Espresso, I would have to say would be the Bolivar Petit Belicosos, the 2009 Edition Limiteda. There was tons of chocolate and mocha in that Cigar. That would be a formidable pairing!

When there’s a range of Beer’s to be had, whether it’s my local or a Beer Festival, I seldom stick to one drink. Usually I’m onto the next Beer from a totally different Brewer. However, not this time! Dark Star Espresso was so good I just had to have another... and another! When my time had ran out, and I needed to go home, I think I had drank four pints of Espresso in all. Good times!

Nelson - Swashbuckler

Up next was the Nelson Brewery with their Swashbuckler Ale. At 4.5% ABV this is a strong, Premium Bitter, that is bronze in colour with very little head.

Nelson Brewery Swashbuckler Bitter in a handle pint glass

When it was poured into my glass, I wasn’t expecting much to be frankly honest. There wasn’t much going on in the glass. There was no carbonation, or any kind of head. And it was the same with the taste. There was a good amount of hops here that gave Swashbuckler that Bitter finish, but you know what? There wasn’t enough here for me to say - “this is damn good, I’m going to order another one!"

Rating Swashbuckler, I would have to give this a 6 out of 10. I’m looking forward however to trying this Ale again sometime soon. As I feel that this could have been a better Beer in different circumstances.

Idle Brewery - Idle Dog

The final beer sampled from their guest list was the Idle Brewery with their Idle Dog. At 4.2% ABV, this was a classic Bitter, with some fruity notes intermixed with a good jolt of malt with a good bitter finish.

Idle Brewery’s Idle Dog in a handle pint glass

However at this point, I was still thinking about Dark Star Espresso, so after this Beer I was ready to go for a final pint of the black stuff. Any other day, if Idle Dog was available anywhere else, I would have stuck with this, but the Espresso won the day. Rating Idle Dog however, I would say this was a classic, solid Bitter. I’ve tasted better, I’ve tasted much worse. I’m going to score this a 6.75 out of 10. Very good.

Anchor Brewery - Porter

To finish off the evening, I snuck in a Anchor Brewery Porter. At this point into the evening, I was a little worse for wear, so tasting notes at this point are a bit fuzzy to say the least!!

Anchor Brewery Porter

However, even from the bottle, this was one hell of a tasty Porter! There’s some good carbonation here. I can remember this tickling the tongue! With chocolate and toffee notes, Anchor Porter had a slightly more bitter finish than the Dark Star Espresso. Rating Anchor Porter, I would give this around the same mark as Espresso. Maybe 8.25 or 8.5 out of 10.

So it was a good day.

Many beers were drank, and I got a little drunk. Hey, that’s what a day out should be right? With some good company, get yourself down to the City Arms and try some of the Beers they have available. Better than being stuck in the rut of your run of the mill Lagers, Guinness and the odd bottle of Newcastle Brown...

Tonight's Drinks - Teignworthy Beachcomber and Castle Rock's Harvest Pale

Date Posted: 14th July 2011

As usual, I'm not sure which Cigar I'm going for tonight, but I've got my two Beer's ready for This Week - Beachcomber and Harvest Pale.

Beachcomber - Teignworthy

I don't know much about the Teignworthy Brewery. I cannot recall trying any of their beer's so this is going to somewhat interesting. This beer is Bottled Conditioned, so it's one of those slow pour moments. From reading the notes on the rear of the bottle, Teignworthy describe Beachcomber as a Golden Brew, with citrus tones with hints of Blackcurrant. They state that they're trying to please both Lager and Real Ale drinkers with this Beer, by being light on the palate. Going to be interesting if they pull this off. Hopefully there's enough 'happening' to interest me, the Real Ale drinkers while being Lager drinker friendly. Really looking forward to this beer.

Harvest Pale - Castle Rock

The Castle Rock Brewery have really made inroads in the last few years, with their quality beers, and heavy promotion of their range. The last time I sampled Harvest Pale, was at the Carmarthen Beer Festival, where I thought it was a solid Golden Ale, but not much else, as I was intoxicated at the time. I'm hoping tonight I'll be able fill in the gaps and give this Real Ale a proper review.

Well, it looks like the battle of the golden coloured Ale's tonight. Which one is going to triumph? I'm hoping that Beachcomber does really well, what they suggest on the bottle sounds like they may end up pleasing either party. Hopefully this is not the case.

For the Cigar, I really don't have that much choice regarding what I'm going to smoke. It may be a trusty Bolivar Coronas Extras, the same Cigar I smoked for last week's video review, or it maybe something a little rarer. But it might not be the right time to smoke something from my 'special section'. Oh lordy.

Bottles of Teignworthy's Brewery Beachcomber and Castle Rock's Harvest Pale

Feedback from the Video Cigar Review

Date Posted: 14th July 2011

Firstly, A Thank You

It's been a few days since I posted my first video review here on my website. I’ve been overwhelmed by some of the kind slices of feedback I have received from people who have viewed the review. Thanks to everyone who took the time out to watch the eleven or so minutes that the video review went on for, and was forgiving on the traffic / wine noise, along with the amateurish editing.

Next time, I'll pick somewhere that's a little more secluded and positioned away from a nearby road that was causing most of the background noise. However, the audio from my camera turned out better than I expected. As I was using just a Nikon Coolpix camera, I wasn't expecting any miracles when it came to audio or video quality. However, the end result was quite encouraging.

It was fun outside smoking a Cigar and drinking a glass of Red Wine while watching the cars go past. Some passersby, who looked on quizzingly while we were doing the review, actually helped me relax and not take the whole thing so seriously. There is something quite therapeutic, releasing your inhibitions and all that while doing something so public. Nice not to feel so insular for once.

So, what next?

This weekend I’ll be looking to video review another of my favourite Cigars, the Partagas D4. This Cigar has had a strong following over the last few years and is one of the fuller bodied Robustos available. Along with the video review, I’ll add tasting notes, rating system and more added.

What would you like me to review?

I have a few ideas on what I should review Cigar wise over the next couple of weeks. Based on statistics through analytics, i.e, what people search for on Google to arrive on my site, I’ll do some video reviews based on those.

If you have a suggestion regarding a Cigar you’d like me to review and comment on, please drop me an email at cigars@stevegriff.com. The Cigar in question does not have to be Cuban either. It can be Dominican, Honduran, Nicaraguan, or even Indian.

Let me know what you think!

Drinks - Newman's Strawberry Stream and Wells' Waggledance

Date Posted: 10th July 2011

Down the Fox on this nice Summery July evening and I’m trying out the Newman’s Strawberry Steam and Wells’ Waggledance. Complimenting these Real Ales will be one of my favourite Cigars, the Bolivar Coronas Extras.

Newman's Strawberry Steam with a Bolivar Coronas Extras

First up, the Strawberry Steam looks seductive with it’s amber coloured haze. On the palette however, the flavours are uneven and harsh. There’s a lot of hops here, in fact, there’s too much. I can get the sweetness, probably the flavours that gave Strawberry Steam it’s name, but there’s just too much onslaught of all the other stronger flavours. My drinking buddy Hefin, who never has a bad word about anything, was threatening to throw his half drunk Strawberry Steam in the hedge.

There’s too much acidity on the end section of the palette. Everything is in your face. With a name like ’Strawberry Steam’, I was expecting something a lot less mellow, but all it wants to do is kick you in the nads.

Scoring Strawberry Steam, I'm going to give this a below average 5.5/10. Not enjoyable enough for me to want another drink if there’s anything better. Maybe you’ll like these stronger, harsher flavours, but they’re not for me.

Second up, and hopefully better, is Wells’ Waggledance. With a dollop of Fair Trade South American honey, thrown into the mix, from experience, I was expecting a mellow ale, and that’s what I got.

Well, replace mellow with non-existent. This beer has a better head, and lacing than the Strawberry Steam, but while the Strawberry Steam had too many teeth, this has too little. I couldn’t detect any worthwhile flavours, everything was flat and lifeless. Even though I didn’t like Strawberry Steam due to it’s unbalanced nature, I disliked Waggledance more for not having any kind of notable plus points.

Possibly the best time to drink a pint of Waggledance is at a sweltering mid summer’s day, however, I’d probably still go for something else. I’m someone who enjoys a little bit of a challenge with my Real Ale’s, however, Waggledance did not deliver anything worthwhile to the table.

For Waggledance, I'm going to score this Ale a disappointing 5.25/10. I might be rating it too low, there’s certainly going to be fans of this beer like Strawberry Steam, but for most people I fear both will pass most people by.

So, if I had to choose between the two as a winner, what would I go for? Well, for all it’s flaws, I would go for Newman’s Strawberry Steam. Possibly this was a bad batch of the Steam, maybe this is a new barrel, or even one almost finished and I’m drinking the ‘bad stuff’ from it, so it may get better. With the Waggledance, it feels like that’s all it can go.

So if you’re down your local, and you have a choice between Waggledance and Strawberry Steam, and there’s a third beer on the table you can go for, you might be better off going for the third option.

Tonight's drinks - McEwans Champion and Hopback Summer Lightning

Date Posted: 7th July 2011

Although I'm not quite sure what Cigar I will be smoking this evening, I do however know what I will be drinking.

Bottles of McEwans Champion Ale and Hopback Summer Lightning

First up, a drink that's probably well known to most Real Ale enthusiasts, is the Hopback Brewery Summer Lightning. A winner of many CAMRA awards of over the last couple of years, this is a Golden Ale that is 5% ABV.

Secondly, we have McEwans Champion. At a whopping 7,4% ABV, I'm expecting it to be goodnight Vienna after a pint of this. Or if this doesn't put me to sleep, the panellists on Question Time will.

I'll review both drinks in my Tasting Notes pages over the forthcoming days.

A Quick Smoke - El Rey de Mundo Choix Supreme & Wye Valley's Butty Bach

Date Posted: 4th July 2011

Saturday night's smoke is one of the best light to medium bodied Cuban Robusto’s on the market, the El Rey de Mundo Choix Supreme.

Whenever it’s a sunny day, I cannot think of any other Cigar that I would prefer smoking than the Choix Supreme. The flavour profile is mainly honey sweetness laced with some buttery elements, that is not harsh or full bodied. The Cigar can be paired with many types of alcoholic drinks, whether it is a glass of Champagne, a pint of golden Real Ale, or a light, floral Whiskey.

I’m pairing the Cigar with Wye Valley Brewery’s Butty Bach. With the caramel sweetness of the Ale, I’m hoping that this will compliment the hints of honey from the Choix Supreme.

Finding an empty bench in the pub’s Beer Garden, I began lighting up the Choix Supreme.

What a great Cigar these are. Cheaper than the many other Cuban Robusto’s available, this matches and sometimes surpasses many of the more expensive Cigar’s available, such as a Romeo y Julieta Exhibition 4, Ramon Allones Specially Selected and the Cohiba Robusto.

The El Rey de Mundo Choix Supreme resting on top of a pint of Wye Valley’s Butty Bach

Honey, some sugary sweetness, and a buttery finish all combines together into an excellent smoke.

If you are a fan of the Cohiba Robusto, I would suggest the El Rey de Mundo Choix Supreme as a cheaper alternative.

Into the second half of the The El Rey de Mundo Choix Supreme.

92 points.

A Quick Smoke - Partagas Serie P No. 2

Date Posted: 3rd July 2011

Last Thursday Night's smoke is one of the most popular Cigars in the Partagas range in recent years. The Partagas P2 is a behemoth of a Cigar, full bodied, complex and very, very tasty.

One of my favourite big smokes, I find the Partagas P2 one of the best Cigars to come out of Cuba in recent years. Since it’s release in 2005, they have been consistently great. I find myself choosing these above any other Torpedo shaped Cigar. Whether it is the Bolivar Belicosos Finos, the H. Upmann No. 2 or even the greatest Torpedo of them all, the Montecristo #2.

The Partagas P2 I’m smoking is from October 2010. A young Cigar, I might be smoking this a little too early. Hopefully the Cigar will smoke beautifully and will cast all doubts I may have of it.

The Partagas Serie P No. 2 leaning on top of a Cohiba ashtray.

As you can see from the picture above. The construction is excellent. It may not be in the class of the Limited Editions, or the Cohiba Behike range in construction, but it’s just enough to give anyone a classy smoke.

Cutting the Partagas is no problem at all. On the draw, it seems just a tad looser than I would normally expect from not only a Partagas P2 but any Cuban Cigar.

After lighting the Cigar and taking in a few draws, the flavour is distinctively Partagas. There’s leather, a tad amount of sweetness that is just... divine. It all works perfectly. Already, this is a good smoke, however, I found moving into the second half of the Partagas I could detect some greenness the mid-palette.

Damn! I hoped that the Cigar wasn't too young, but it was. Nine months wasn’t enough for the Cigar to have diminish the dreaded sick period At the end of the Cigar, I went to bed with a slightly upset stomach, and an unsatisfying smoking experience.

Along with the H. Upmann Magnum 50 that I smoked the Thursday before this one, I’m finding the bigger the smoke, the bigger the amount of time you have to leave a Cigar age. This may not be true. I may just be unlucky, but at the moment I’m finding anything that is bigger than a Robusto and has less than two years of age on it needs to be left alone.

The Partagas Serie P No. 2 all smoked. Maybe I should not have smoked the last third. Not feeling so good.

Of course you may say, the bigger the Stogie, the more tobacco there is, and therefore if there is ammonia present, you’re going to get a bigger dosage of the stuff. So you are going to find it. Obviously, I need to find some big sticks with some age on them. The search starts today.

A Quick Smoke in the Fox: Juan Lopez Petit Corona

Date Posted: 26th June 2011

This weekend I was back in the homeland - Carmarthen in West Wales for to visit the folks. This visit also gives me the opportunity to visit the local pub - The Fox & Hounds in Bancyfelin. Along with two Real Ale's always available, there's a good sized beer garden that is a perfect area for a smoke and a pint.

After four or five pints of the excellent Dark Age from the The Celt Experience, I retired outside to smoke a Juan Lopez Petit Corona. I've recently bought a box of these, and they're currently smoking magnificently.

It's great to see the resurgence of the Juan Lopez brand, starting with the rave reviews of the Selection No. 2 and now with the Regional Editions including the blockbuster Selección Suprema. I've only recently ran out of the Selection No. 2; and I'm already missing them. One of the great Cigars from the past few years. Gotta get me some more of them.

If you haven't read my review of this bobby dazzler of a little Cigar, I would suggest you go over after reading this post and get a more in-depth description of the flavours and progression of this scarcity.

Review of the Juan Lopez Petit Corona

Outside, sitting on a bench overlooking the Fox & Hounds car park I light up this little companion for a delightful forty five minute smoke. Spice, creamy espresso and the underlying tobacco flavours all heightening the senses.

Sitting outside the Fox & Hounds in Bancyfelin smoking a Juan Lopez Petit Corona with The Celt Experience's Dark Age

Sitting outside the Fox & Hounds in Bancyfelin smoking a Juan Lopez Petit Corona with The Celt Experience's Dark Age.

After finishing, I head back inside to the tail end of the night. But not after one more pint for the road, the Baggywrinkle from the Preseli Brewery. I had this in the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival last weekend and didn't think much of it. But this pint was much better. Or maybe I was drunk. Everything tastes (and looks!) better when drunk. Who knows. It was a nice enough way to end the night.

The darkness of the Fox & Hounds car park on a Saturday night.

The darkness of the Fox & Hounds car park on a Saturday night.

A Quick Smoke: H. Upmann Magnum 50

Date Posted: 24th June 2011

Along with my usual Thursday nights of Question Time and This Week, I’m pairing some The Balvenie Whiskey and a H. Upmann Magnum 50.

The H. Upmann Magnum 50

One of the ‘in’ Cigars at the moment amongst aficionados, the H. Upmann Magnum 50’s is big and loud. With two bands, this towering Double Robusto measures in at 6.3 inches and 50 ring gauge.

Originally released in 2005 as a limited edition, the Magnum 50 was re-introduced in 2008 as a regular production Cigar. A light to medium bodied smoke, this looks to be a great mid-afternoon herf smoke.

The H. Upmann Magnum 50 - in the first third

On the first puffs, there’s leathery, tobacco flavours. I was expecting a little more creaminess. I can detect some summery, butter and honey notes but only a little.

This Cigar gave me an hour and a half worth of smoking time.

I think this Cigar needs more time in the humidor. Mid-way through the Magnum 50, the flavours are still opening up. The leathery flavours are now opening up to include a peppery spice sensation. Only a little mind, I think this Cigar is meant to tease - seduce you it’s flavours only so slightly. There’s a tangy-ness here. Very interesting how the Cigars from the rest of the box will develop in the forthcoming years.

The H. Upmann Magnum 50

I would suggest trying to find boxes from the original 2008 release. I have found the ones I have smoked to be a little too young, the flavours have not ripen in maturity. I have tried one from 2009 and two or three from 2010 and their not quite ready yet. I would hasten to guess that there is still plenty of ageing potential with the 2008’s also.

If I were to score this, I would rate this around 88 or 89 points. The first third of the Cigar let itself down with it’s flat flavours. However, into the second third and onwards, the bouquet of flavours saved the day

Keep these in the back of the humidor for a few years. You won’t regret it.

Question Time, This Week and a Cigar.

Date Posted: 23rd June 2011

Thursday's are one of my favourite night's for a drink and a Cigar. Along with a good Habanos and a fine alcoholic beverage, there are two shows back-to-back that provide the scene for my late night television - Question Time & This Week.

Some of you guys (and girls) might be putting their hand over their mouth and letting out a big yawn, but I'm one of those amateur armchair political pundits (amateur like this Cigars and Real Ale blog you might hasten to add) who likes a good debate. I'm not huge into politics, but as you get older, you understand more that the decisions made at government trickles down to effect you.

There's not many shows that make me turn on the television at a set time any more. Most of the shows that I watch these days I find on the Internet via BBC iPlayer or a download.

Question Time is a little bit like a warm-up. Depending on the guests, it can be incredibly fun, or incredibly dull. Sometimes you have to take that chance. For example, tonight we have amongst others, John Redwood, Fern Britton and David Mitchell. The other two guests, meh, they're politicians that aren't really at the forefront of the public eye. If I don't know them, I would hazard to guess that you won't either.

However, we may have some kind of banter between David Mitchell and John Redwood. Who knows. Fingers crossed. It would seem that Redwood would be the kind of person Mitchell would detest enough to have a few cracks at...

After Question Time, we have This Week. Fronted by Andrew Neil with regular guest Michael Portillo, they go through the week's news stories including segments from other guests from the world of politics and entertainment.

The drink of choice while watching is Blue Nun. Andrew advises that you have the Blue Nun Reserve edition...

It's all light hearted and in good spirits. It's not as heavy as Question Time, but Question Time is as heavy as a pillow really. It's not exactly Andrew Marr on a Sunday morning...

Andrew Neil is supposedly a brother of the leaf, however there isn't any information on the web about what Cigars he regularly or irregularly smokes.

These two programs set the backdrop to almost two hours of smoking. It's a nice way to unwind before a Friday that you can wake up to a little happier that you had a nice evening smoking and that the weekend is nearly upon you.

If you're on Twitter one Thursday night and Question Time & This Week is on, grab a Cigar out of the Humidor and herf with me. I'll be active on Twitter, let me know what you're smoking and what you think of the debate.

One day, whenever I retire in the murky decades of the future, I may end up watching BBC Parliament all day with a Johnny Walker and a Guantanamera. Lets hope not.

Habanos SA deletions. Never say never?

Date Posted: 21st June 2011

Every year, Habanos SA, the company that handles all the manufacturing and distribution of Cuban Cigars draw up a list of what sizes from what brands will be discontinued. Habanos SA have never given publicly reason why a certain Cuban Cigar gets the chop. Maybe their senior executives huddle in a room, throw darts at a board, play stogie Russian roulette or even participate in a knock out tournament of Sensible Soccer representing their least favourite Cigar.

Most people agree it's most probably due to demand. That makes business sense, right? Anyway, every Cigar Aficionado cried a tear or at least swore at their mother when they heard two sizes of the Diplomaticos range got the axe. The Diplomaticos No. 4 and No. 5, in many Cigar Aficionado's eyes (me included), agreed that these were great morning or afternoon smokes. There was no doubt that these were consistent Cigars. You buy a box in 2003, they were great. Box in 2007, fabulous. Obviously, Habanos listen to the bottom line more than their customers.

This year, if the rumours are true, everyone's favourite party Cigar, the Partagas Culebras, is going to be discontinued after their re-introduction in 2007 as a purely handmade vitola . Another Cigar that is also rumoured to be cancelled is also the Bolivar Gold Medal.

There are nothing wrong with these two vitolas. One is for cheap laughs, and funnily enough, they are again pretty good smokes, while the other, the Bolivar Gold Medal, is a fabulous smoke, and as they're available in boxes of ten, not that expensive as a one off box purchase. So what gives? Consistency is good. Why be down on consistency? Habanos SA should be looking at inconsistency. Yeah, sack inconsistency. Maybe that's not so straightforward either...

If we were to delete inconsistent, generally poor Cigar vitolas, then why not lets start with the daddy, the Montecristo #4? The world's most popular Cuban Cigar, is also one of the most inconsistent. (did I not say that already?) But, as with any handmade product the more Cigars the roller has to roll on her thigh, the more tired and slack her work is going to be. Ok, I'm playing with a stereotype here, but the principal the same, the more Cigars you have to produce the chances are the quality of each one made will decrease slightly.

Maybe deleting inconsistent, unsatisfactory made or badly tasting Cigars is not so simple either...

I think the marketing Habanos SA are doing with Cigar deletions is incorrect. The best thing they could do with a Cigar that is not selling as well as they would hope is to stop producing it for a few years and then produce a few ten thousand boxes a few years later. Make the vitola desirable by making it difficult to source and purchase.

I'm sure during the late 2000's, the Por Larranaga Petit Corona's were produced this way. One year they would release enough cabinets of 50 to satisfy demand and then not make them for a couple of years. During the years where they weren't being made, obtaining these boxes became scarce, and therefore Cigar smokers then would gladly buy a load of them when a new batch of them are made a few years later.

As you can see, there's a few things to think about here. It's a shame some great Cigars are being deleted. Maybe certain people love being traditionalists (please don't take my Rafael González Lonsdale away... oh wait, too late). If a certain Cigar has been in production since before the revolution, does it have some kind of un-deletable diplomatic immunity?

Or in the grand scheme of things does it really matter? Habanos SA seem to release something new every year, to fill the gap. Or, wait... Are they conning us by releasing something new that is actually just the same as a Cigar that was recently deleted?

A Quick Smoke: Bolivar Coronas Extra

Date Posted: 20th June 2011

Monday night has meant Game of Thrones in the smoking room the past ten weeks. Tonight is the season finale, so it was time to kick back and watch the last episode for this year unfold. And what best way to watch such quality television is with a good drink and a Cuban Cigar?

I can't tell you enough how much I've gotten into this drama from HBO over the last two to three months. Game of Thrones is not forgiving for the characters who play a part in each episode. I'm not going to give much away for anyone who is only starting to watch the series, but just be prepared to get hooked and indulge yourself in the classic storytelling.

Along with watching the series, I've borrowed the book to read from a colleague at work. I've regretted not reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Maybe I should start reading now, why not do today what you've been meaning to do tomorrow and all that, or however it goes...

I've been reading the first book whenever I get the chance. This usually means digesting a few chapters every night, sitting in a hot bath, letting the natural healing abilities of heat, water and relaxation fade the aches and pains of legs being pushed to the limit after an hour's workout on the jogging machine. Hey, I have to work off the calories from drinking all these lovely Real Ale's that I've been consuming somehow, right?

Anyhow, back to the primary subject of this blog post. Pairing Game of Thrones was a lovely Espresso with a Bolivar Coronas Extra. I've recently bought a box of these and I'm already smoking my way through them like there's no tomorrow. I'm loving the profile of this vitola; their not as strong as other Bolivars, such as the Petit Corona or the Belicosos Finos, but they do have a leathery kick, and they work well with a strong Espresso.

Bolivar Coronas Extras

Along with the flavour profile, I really love the size of the Corona Extras vitola. They're long enough to last at least an hour, up until an hour and a half if you smoke them slowly and carefully enough. The Bolivar Petit Corona, although my all time favourite Cigar, is great for watching a forty minute episode, of lets say, Mad Men, but when you're sitting through almost an hour of Game of Thrones or any other sixty minute drama or movie, you want that Cigar to last just a little longer.

Bolivar Coronas Extras resting on top of a cup of Espresso

Possibly the best I've had from the box yet. 92 points.

Thoughts on the La Flor de Cano Short Robusto

Date Posted: 15th June 2011

After a year of waiting, the second 2010 United Kingdom Regional Edition, the La flor de Cano Short Robusto makes it's long awaited appearance this month. There has been no real definitive reason why the release has been delayed for so long - from memory one article I read mentioned shipping was delayed once or twice. But alas, the Short Robusto is here and is about to make an appearance, being launched at the Hunters and Frankau 2011 Summer Cigar Party on Thursday, the 23rd June at The Langham Hotel.

Short Robusto Dimensions and History

The La Flor De Cano Short Robusto is modelled on a long discontinued Cigar from the same brand, the Short Churchill. The Short Churchill measures in at 4.9" x 50 ring gauge vs the Short Robusto's 4" x 50 ring gauge. So, the change of name of the Regional Edition is consistent with the length of the Cigar. I'm not sure why Hunters and Frankau couldn't have made the Regional Edition the same length as the Short Churchill and called it the same name however...

If the name and size of the Cigar are not the same, then one thing Hunters and Frankau are hoping is that the blend will be. This is one thing that none of us can comment at at this time as the Short Robusto has not yet been released. But all indications are pointing towards that the blend is reminiscent of the Short Churchill it is based on, and the blend is a good one. This could be marketing speak, but it won't be long before we can make up our own minds...

Am I interested in the release?

Well, the answer is yes and no! Firstly, I'm not a big fan of these Regional Editions. There are many criticisms globally on the whole regarding the Regional Edition releases amongst Cigar aficionados. Firstly, the blend that they produce for the brand is not indicative of the taste profile as a whole. For example, I've smoked many Bolivar Regional Editions that don't taste like Bolivar's if you know what I mean. They seem to be medium in body, and Bolivar's aren't meant to be like that.

I'm not too fused on that this Cigar is on the short side. As long as it's flavourful and reasonibly priced I don't mind. However, I think we can only forgive Habanos SA once for the huge mistake that was the Trinidad Short Robusto T limited edition from 2010...

When a Cigar importer for a specific country is asked by Habanos SA to draw up the size and blend for their regional edition, they will go for what they think sells. It doesn't seem as if Habanos SA say 'no' to what the importer wishes to release.

However, something that Hunters and Frankau seem to do well is get a 'legendary' cigar from yesteryear released. These legendary releases started with the Por Larranaga Magnificos and then it followed on with the Juan Lopez Selección Suprema, the Por Larranaga Regalias de Londres and now onto the La Flor de Cano. So them releasing an old Cigar with the blend being close to the original will always interest me.

Remember, you can still get hold of Por Larranaga's and Juan Lopez to understand the blend and taste profile. With the La Flor de Cano however, when do you get the chance to smoke a Cigar from that vitola? Hopefully Hunters and Frankau will deliver with the Short Robusto. It will be an embarrassment if the reality doesn't match the hype. Here's to hoping.

Looking forward to the Cardiff Beer Festival

Date Posted: 12th June 2011

CAMRA in Wales' most important date on the Beer calendar starts this week – the Great Welsh Beer & Cider festival. Between Thursday 16th June and Saturday 18th June, the Motorpoint Arena will be teeming full of drinkers who will be able to sample over 150 different Real Ales, 40 Ciders and a range of foreign beers.

I'm looking forward to sampling some gaps from different breweries that I am relatively familiar from my experience at the Carmarthen Beer Festival.

The list of Real Ales is available by clicking the link below:

List of Real Ales at the Cardiff Beer Festival 2011

I have listed below some of the Breweries I'll be paying a visit to at the festival and the Ale's I'll be looking forward to sample over the next three days:

Brains

Jumping from the first few Ale's listed is Brains' Strong Ale. A new release, this ale is brewed to a traditional recipe from the early days of the Brewery. More information can be found here on Brains' own website:

Brains – Strong Ale

A Brewery that has a prominent placing at the Carmarthen Beer Festival is Breconshire Brewery. Ysbrid y Ddraig , Cribyn and Ramblers Ruin are a Carmarthen Beer Festival mainstay and are always popular. However, there's a greater range here that I'm looking forward to sampling, including Brecon County Ale and The Mayor's Inspiration.

The Celt Experience

If you have shopped in any Asda's in Cardiff over the last year, you would have noticed that the a Brewery called the Celt Experience has been stocked quite aggressively on their shelves. I've been impressed with the beer's that I have sampled from them - Bronze Ale, Golden Ale and Bleddyn 1075.

I'm looking forward to trying Castle Cream and Native Storm. Hopefully the quality of these Ale's will be even better in cask than the Golden and Bronze Ale that are available in bottles.

The Celt Experience Website

Heart of Wales

One brewery that has made an appearance over the last few years in the Carmarthen Beer Festival is the Heart of Wales Brewery. Their Aur Cymru beer has gone down very well at the Festival therefore I'm looking forward to sampling their other Beer's.

I'm sure it will be no surprise that their high alcohol content, High as a Kite beer, at 10.5%, will be a strong seller at the Cardiff Beer Festival.

Heart of Wales Brewery

Wye Valley

One of my favourite beers at the Carmarthen Beer Festival is Wye Valley's Butty Bach. Unfortunately, it's the only beer that is available from the brewery that makes an appearance at the festival.

Lucky enough for me, there's always a wide selection of their Real Ale's available at the Cardiff Festival, including Dorothy Goodbody Golden Ale, Stout, Ginger Pride and Hereford Pale Ale.

Well that's it. I've listed some of the Ale's that I'm hoping to sample from the different breweries at the Cardiff Beer Festival. I hope to see you there!

Back on the Poker trail

Date Posted: 20th January 2011

Over the last three months or so I've been neglecting one of my favourite pastimes, online and live Poker. I had a little bit of a slump at the end beginning of September so I concentrated on other things, leaving Poker on the sidelines.

Things have changed.

A few days ago I deposited $300 into my PokerStars account. I'll be playing primarily $0.5/1 Limit and Sit 'n Go's with some tournaments thrown in for good measure. I'm currently trying to move away from Fixed Limit to the No-Limit Arena when it comes to cash games.

I'll be charting my progress through the blog. Hopefully my little Poker rejuvenation will be positive and I will have some good progress to report over the next twelve months of 2011.