The new Fratello Bianco is off to a good start. The 5 x 44 size is their event-exclusive size. It has a dark wrapper on it, San Andres Negro wrapper, Dominican binder and filler, and then a combination of Pennsylvanian, Nicaraguan, and Peruvian filler. Omar de Frias, the owner of Fratello Cigars, has gone full-time with the brand and it’s continuing to grow. He’s excited about the Bianco blend he’s been working on. It’s a good, smooth, medium-bodied cigar, a bit different from the original line from Fratello. It’s much smoother than most medium to full body cigars. It doesn’t have any edge to it but it has a nice hint of vanilla. The regular AVO Classic lines are great, mild cigars. The AVO Domaine series is more of the medium to full body and a little darker cigar.
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I’m Lane Oden and I’m joined by Harris Saunders and Sean Kavanaugh. How’s it going, guys?
I’m going pretty good.
It’s going okay. You’ve got all the crabbiness of getting back to the grind. It was a pretty good weekend.
It’s strange to be doing this.
That’s my bad. I ended up having some extra responsibilities at work last minute and wasn’t able to get out of the office at the time. I’m sorry about that.
Work comes first. Never curse the curse.
They’re definitely good enough to let me out about one day a week to come out and smoke a cigar. I’m not complaining by any means.
That’s a pretty decent gig you’ve got there.
It is. If Alec Bradley starts looking for an IT guy, I might apply for it. In the meantime, the gig I’ve got is pretty nice.
Harris has lit up. Lane, what do you got going on?
I’m smoking a 2015 Limited Edition AVO. I’ve smoked the 2014. This is the first time I’ve smoked this birthday cigar. It’s definitely fuller-flavored than I’ve accustomed to these being. There are definite spicy notes. There’s definitely cocoa in this. It’s much more robust, much fuller body, much fuller flavored, than these usually are. I walked through the humidor for a little while. I was looking for the new Kristoff Cameroon from IPCPR. They haven’t made it in yet. I passed by the Davidoff Escurios and saw that they have a Petit Robusto. I said, “I’m going to review that AVO.” They’ve been out but this is the first one I’ve had. I definitely enjoyed the stick.
I’ve been looking at the AVOs and I didn’t put it on the master list. That’s a Davidoff cigar, correct?
That’s made in the same location.
What’s the price point? Are those a mid-tier line for Davidoff? Is that sweet spot, that $10 spot?
This is a little more than that. This is more $16 to $18. They do make some that are sold at $10. The AVO Heritage line comes to mind and they’re usually somewhere between $7 to $10. They are good cigars for $7 to $10.
The Limited Edition is probably the most expensive AVO by far. They release one-size, one blend, one time per year.
This year it’s a Toro, last year it’s some Torpedo. It’s usually somewhere around six inches, somewhere around 50 ring gauge.
I’ve never had one yet. Is it one I should pick up? Is the AVO a line that I should dive into?
I would say that this particular cigar is probably my favorite of the Limited Editions that I’ve ever smoked. This is my 10th or 11th year. The Heritage line is great. Their main lines tend to run a little milder. If somebody is looking for something milder, getting an AVO No. 2 is probably a pretty safe bet.
What price point is that at?
Those are $8 to $10 range, depending on the size.
I’m smoking the Fratello Bianco. I’m smoking the 5×44 size, which is a sample I had from the IPCPR. I looked it up and it’s going to be their event-exclusive size. I love the size. It has a dark wrapper on it, San Andres Negro wrapper, Dominican binder and filler, and then a combination of Pennsylvanian, Nicaraguan, and Peruvian filler. It’s a good, smooth, medium-bodied cigar, a good bit different from the original line from Fratello.
How’s Omar de Frias, the owner of Fratello Cigars, doing? He’s a good guy. I’ve never smoked one of his cigars yet but I’ve talked to him several times.
He’s doing great. He’s gone full-time with the brand. He’s made the jump to doing that. From what he said, it’s continuing to grow. He’s happy with it. He’s excited about this blend he’s been working on, the Bianco.
What are the characteristics of that cigar?
I would say medium to full body. I’ve smoked about the first inch of it. It’s much smoother than most medium to full body cigars. It doesn’t have any edge to it. It has a nice, almost hint of vanilla. It has a unique taste to it, really tasty so far. It’s a good one.
I know that I’ve got one big football fan over there. Was anyone else jacked up to see professional football for the Hall of Fame Game?
I was nuts about it. I was happy to see any amount of live football on TV again.
Teddy Bridgewater looks good.
The Hall of Fame Game and the whole preseason is an appetizer course for me. I don’t get into full stupid until we reach college football season. Even once the NFL full season gets going, it’s still focused on college for me, just for wherever you live.
I’m a college fan, even though I’m a Midwest Bears guy. I’ll watch a Thursday night game over an NFL game any day. I’ll watch Northern Illinois play on a Thursday night. I’m a much bigger college fan than I am a pro fan, but I like to see how some of the players develop, whether my armchair quarterbacking or armchair jamming is up to snuff. I like Teddy Bridgewater coming out of college. I thought he was the most polished quarterback in that class.
He’s certainly proven me correct. He doesn’t have a huge cannon of an arm but he can make almost all the throws. In the last five games, he was a 74.4% completion percentage, which is off the charts, only second to Ben Roethlisberger. He’s the real deal. They’ve got some weapons over there in Minnesota, which I’m not a big Minnesota Fan, but I like certain players. He’s one of them that I enjoy watching.
The thing I do like about the NFL is that it doesn’t manage to always pretty much be competitive. The matchups are, I don’t want to call them necessarily close, but you’ve got great athletes at every skill position. It all comes down to execution for both teams.
It’s execution and team culture. Those seem to be the commonalities between good, solid franchises and the ones that aren’t. The NFL is one of the greatest leagues in that you could suck one year. You could be three and thirteen and come back the next year and be ten and six and make the playoffs, which is pretty cool because it keeps fans engaged. Unlike Alabama, which is probably going to have a ten-win, eleven-win season every single year. The NFL, you can be in Jacksonville and get a great season out of those guys or be in Arizona. That’s what keeps the NFL going. I like when people play for more than just money. I know I’m fooled into thinking that the college kids don’t play for money because, at some point, it all comes down to money. It’s a pure sport to me.
During the preseason, there’s even a little bit of that left. Here in the preseason, you’ve got coaches making silly calls just to see if they can do it. They’re being conservative with their playbook, but they’re building depth. They’re letting their third string and fourth string players play and seeing what might work down the road.
What did you think of the extra point rule? Did you see that?
I heard them talking about it. What is the new extra point rule?
I didn’t quite catch the rule on kicking or punting out of the end zone. There’s a free punt rule where you can kick it with no rush and see if you can kick a huge field goal. The extra point rule is that it’s a 33-yard field goal for an extra point. They made it not an automatic point.
It was because they had some crazy 95%, 96% conversion rate on the extra point.
It’s neat if that percentage does drop to 70%. Maybe more teams go for 2%. It’s not an automatic 7%. I like that idea. I smoked a couple cigars.
What did you smoke?
I’m becoming a My Father fan. I had a Flor de Las Antillas. This was a great, awesome cigar. I want to say medium bodied. Some would say that it’s on the light side, but I thought it was a pretty great cigar. It’s well-constructed as the Crema that I smoked before. It’s creamy. There’s some nuttiness to it. It has a touch of spice, maybe past the first third, but it went away quickly. It was there and then it was gone. The only spice I could get is on the retrohale which you’ll find in most cigars. That’s where you’ll get the spice, it’s on the retrohale if you don’t get it on the front side of things. What did you guys think about that? Have you smoked one? Harris, you’ve probably smoked them before.
That was the Cigar Aficionado number one rated Cigar of The Year for the one that came out in 2013. That has been an incredibly popular cigar. I liked that one. Have you smoked those, Lane?
I haven’t smoked that one. I’ve smoked the Lounge Exclusive.
That was a little bit stronger than this one but I love the Flor de Las Antillas. It’s one of the best. It’s one of the cigars that appeal to the broadest audience that they’ve produced in a long time. Everybody likes that cigar.
I would agree with you. There’s nothing offensive about it. Its construction is beautiful. It’s got a great band. It’s a little work of art. It reminds me of some of the Alec Bradley’s except this is a little more detailed, but it doesn’t do anything bad. It doesn’t do anything wrong. It appeals to about everybody. I prefer a spicier cigar but this one was good. I can’t say anything about it. It’s not my favorite of all time, but I’d have another one for sure.
I had a cigar, but I feel the same way about it. I don’t think it was my favorite cigar that I’ve ever smoked. I had a Caldwell Cigars’ Long Live the King. For a middle of the day, summer afternoon smoke, it was pretty solid. It tends to be a little milder than what I usually smoke. I’ve intended to either go with Fuente Short Story or follow it up with a CLE Signature and time didn’t work out that I had time to smoke two or three cigars. Getting that one in, it had been over a week since I smoked a cigar at that point. I was happy to smoke anything.
Harris, you’ll enjoy this. You sent me a sample of a Quesada Oktoberfest. It was gigantic. I felt like The Penguin. It was a gigantic stogie and it was good. Here’s the funny thing about those big cigars or even a longer cigar. They tend to not burn very hot, which gives it a different taste, a different feel. That’s the first time I’ve ever had that. I’ve never had one of those big ring gauges, long cigars before. It was good. I smoked probably three-quarters of it and then bailed on the last half hour because I was like, “I’m wasting too much of my day smoking this thing.” For the first Quesada cigar, it was good. It’s not popular around here, that line. It was nice to have something a little different.
Oktoberfest is a special release they do once a year in honor of Oktoberfest, the beer holiday. It’s the same blend every year. They’ll do some special sizes each year, but it’s always a popular blend. You can’t always get it. It’s a little harder to find. It’s a smaller production. That’s probably why you don’t see it everywhere.
I was going back and forth because I know that the Rocky Patel Royale is one of the top cigars of 2014.
It was top twenty.
There’s a Rocky Patel that’s been up for more than six months that I haven’t smoked?
You gave me a big Royale. It was a big ring gauge and a longer cigar. Is there definitely a different flavor profile with the larger ring gauge than a Toro or a 48-ring gauge with a 5.5 inch?
You definitely see a big difference, especially between the smaller sizes, smaller ring gauges like the Corona size compared to the 60 or 70 ring gauges. The bigger sizes, they have so much filler tobacco in there that a lot of times it waters it down a little bit. A lot of times they’ll be a little milder compared to the smaller ring gauges. It’s not always true but I would say in general, most of the time to me. The bigger ones tend to water down a little bit. What do you think, Lane?
That’s true for the most part. Every once in a while, I’ll smoke a Gordo or Magnum, whatever they call it 6×60. The sweet spot is somewhere around that Robusto ring gauge, somewhere around 48, 50 ring.
The reason I ask is that when we had Pat Vivalo on, he talked quite a bit about him trying to get his blend regardless of the size of the cigar right at each size. You’d have a similar experience at each size. Do they try and do that or is he unusual in that regard?
He is somewhat unique in doing that. You’re seeing some of the smaller manufacturers, the boutique guys like him doing that. Your bigger manufacturers, for the most part, they might tweak it a little bit. They’re not doing quite like what he is doing.
Harris, what did you do? Do you have any cigars that jumped out at you? Don’t you partake at home?
I do, but my time at home is getting further between because of the two little ones and having number three on the way. I smoked one of the Davidoff Escurios.
Of course, you did because you can. That’s why.
It was the size I had not tried yet because the big ring gauge, the Gran Toro, it’s a 58-ring gauge. I smoked a couple of the cigars from a smaller boutique brand, Warped Cigars. They’ve been getting a lot of buzz. At the IPCPR, they were one of the brands people were talking about the most. It’s another manufacturer that’s small batch, focusing on high quality. Probably my favorite was the Escurio even though it was a bigger ring gauge. It was a medium to full body range. They’re similar to the Davidoff Nicaragua but a little bit stronger. They have a little bit of the Brazilian tobacco in there that change it up a little bit.
Even though it’s a fuller bodied stick, it’s not an intimidating full body. It’s definitely manageable. There are spicy, heavy, full body cigars off there. I didn’t think that Davidoff is one of them. I didn’t smoke the 60-ring gauge, but it was a palatable, full-bodied stick.
I have a question for both of you. What is the one thing about a cigar, regardless of the brand, that turns you off? Is it construction? Is it burn? Is it consistency? One thing that will bug me is a hard draw. What is the one thing that turns you off?
One of my big things is burn and this AVO is a great example of a cigar that’s burning perfectly. I can roll it around in my fingers and there’s not any significant difference. Looking at the ash column, it’s not a perfectly straight line, but its close. I feel if it were to get a little bit off, it would be one of those that I could correct without having to touch it up with a lighter. Every once in a while, I run into a cigar that the tip of it starts to burn unevenly. It’s irritating especially if I want to post a picture of it on Instagram or Twitter and I can’t get a pretty picture of it. It doesn’t affect how the cigar tastes, but I want for it to be aesthetically pleasing.
How about you Harris?
I hate it when the draw is not right on a cigar. When you have a cigar that you smoked a million times and you light it up and it’s too tight or too loose, especially when it’s too tight. I have to put it down. I can’t deal with that.
A tight draw will knock a smoke right out. I’ll put it out.
The quality of all of the cigars available has come such a long way. It’s rare that that happens. I feel that happened to me often.
I’ll even go as far as trying to give it a second cut to see if it’s somewhere around the cap. I’ll even cut past the head of the cigar if I have to. I’ll try and give it a second chance.
I did it with the Julius Caeser that I had, a great cigar by the way. That’s a hell of a cigar. I had that Diamond Crown and I didn’t go past the second cut, but I did open it up a little bit because it was drawing a little tight then that did the trick. I’ve never had this happen before. Nowhere did I read that that had an artificially sweet wrapper, like a sweetened cap. I tasted sweetness out of that wrapper. It didn’t seem it was an acid, but it was definitely more than normal. I was wondering why that was? I didn’t see any reviews that talked about it but it was definitely a sweetened wrapper or a sweeter wrapper.
They don’t sweeten the wrapper at all. It must be from the tobacco itself, a natural sweetness.
It didn’t taste like they were dipping it in molasses. It was more than I’m used to having, smooth tobacco type of flavor, nothing offensive, just a great cigar. It’s different than the Antillas but different than the My Father because it was more of a tobacco type of smoothness, but I had a great one. That was an example of cutting it a little further, open the cigar up.
I have to try and be mindful. I know you hinted at my cutter collection before because I like Perfectos. I have to be careful to remember to take out a Double Guillotine when I smoke those. If I try pre-cut one of those, it never gets lit.
It’s hard to get enough air flow through it real tight.
It was from Cigar Aficionado. You gave me a cigar that had a small tip but then opened up. It was a Torpedo, but it started out small. The flavor was different at the small end, and then it opened up and then got flavorful once you got into the meat of the stick. I thought that was pretty cool and I can see why people like that. I want to say that the Gurkha Cellar Platinum had that construction to it.
I saw you posted on Twitter about how much you liked that cigar.
That was one of my favorites that I’ve ever smoked. That was a great cigar.
Say it a lot and you select a lot of good ones.
It was, I will say, not for the faint of heart. I was seeing stars about halfway through it, but I enjoyed it. It was one of those, “I was glad to be smoking that cigar when I had it.” It was good, so hats off to Gurkha. That’s a pretty decent price point too. It’s going to come out not as much as the last couple that has been out. Isn’t it $11, $12?
It is going to be slightly lower than some of the other Cellar Reserves.
To get a Limited Edition, it’s got its lot number and production number on the side of it.
They’ve done a great job of Cellar Reserve. At least in our stores, that brought the brand back. Gurkha was dead for us, and then Cellar Reserve and then several other releases after that. They’ve done a great job with revamping things.
This is going to sound funny. Lane, you’re going to be like, “I’m a sucker for packaging.”
They have great packaging.
The funny thing is you’re right, they do, but their packaging turns me off. I’m afraid it’s going to be too much. The names of their cigars, I go, “This is going to be too much for me. I can’t handle that.” The names of their cigars make me not buy them. I remember staring at six of them and I didn’t buy one.
The Ghost. The Assassin.
They’re intimidating, and I know I’ve had stronger cigars than those, but I can’t make myself buy them.
I’ve got a buddy and Gurkha is just about all he smokes.
They’re okay. I like the Cellar Reserves better. There are three Cellar Reserves that we’ve got. I’ve had two of them. I had the Maduro and the Natural.
They have the 18 Year, which is the special wrapper, a special edition of it.
18 Year, that’s how long the filler was aged. Is that the deal?
They say some of the tobacco in it. I’d have to look for sure. It is something in the filler is eighteen-year-old tobacco that they ran across somewhere.
That’s why I’m hot to try the new Kristoff too because it’s got aged tobacco. I want to say that some of the tobacco hits aged ten years.
That’s been a hot trend. People out there looking for forgotten tobacco someone in Nicaragua has in a warehouse somewhere that is good, that they can incorporate it into their blends.
I’ve been trying to find the Kristoff Corojo around town and they’re all out of them around here, the orange wrapper one.
Harris has got us some.
I know that’s on the list that I gave him.
That was in the Kristoff section. We came early looking for them.
That was one of my favorites. Of all the cigars I have smoked, that one was a good one. The ones that I keep going to are the Black Market, the Liga, the Undercrowns and the Kristoff. Those are probably my four that would be everyday smokes for me. I can’t get enough of the Undercrowns. For the amount of money that those cost retail, that’s a hell of a cigar.
I’ve got a pair of Ligas in my humidor. I’m trying to take a note off your playbook and let them sit there for a little while.
Harris, we’ve talked a little bit about it, but do you think that aging mellows them out? I think that it does.
We have cigar lockers at the store here. If there’s something new, let it sit in there for two or three months. I do think the concentrated Spanish cedar. It does make a difference. Maybe adding a little extra flavor, smoothing it out a little bit. Some cigars it doesn’t matter, but especially stuff that’s more in the medium to full body range, it definitely does make a difference.
Anything coming in that you want everyone to know about? I’ve been harping on you about the Shades because I saw someone smoking it on Twitter. If that thing came out and I don’t have one, I’m going to be pissed off.
Good news. They are still not there. There a lot of people looking for that. We have people coming in every day asking about it. They have told me the first shape should come in September, but they’re doing something different in that they’re staggering the release. About once a month after that they’re releasing another shape. All four or five won’t be available when they’re all out. It’s a different way to do it, maybe keep people excited about it.
We’ve talked about the way they do things. They create buzz as well as anybody. Here they are with an Undercrown. I still think it’s a premium cigar but it’s not a $15 cigar and here they are creating a ton of buzz for it, a ton of demand, and you’ll sell the hell out of them.
Caldwell’s another brand out there that they have, Therapy line. You’re not going to smoke their top of the line flagship cigars. We got something for you, too.
What are those?
Gibraltar is the one that I smoked. It was great, like what saying about the Long Live The King. It was a great middle of the afternoon, hang outside day. I was smoking the ribs one day, sat outside, and smoked back then.
We can talk about price point, about the correlation between what a cigar costs, how good it is, and if there is a huge difference.
Do you want to start doing blind tests?
I believe that I could taste the difference. I can nail it. I could take a $4 cigar and be able to taste the difference between that and a $12 one.
I bet I could pick out a $5 cigar and $15 cigar, and you would have trouble telling the difference between the two.
Do you think you could do it?
I could take the bands off. I can get two that are about the same size and get Harris to band so that we have an unbiased third party to tell the other that he’s full of it in the end.
If you think you can do that then why would you ever smoke a $15 cigar?
What he’s saying is that there are some good $4, $5 cigars out there. There are some $15, $16 cigars out there that are overrated or not.
Also, I tend to think that be it $5, be it $10, be it $15, that I can find a cigar in any of those three price points that are going to make me happy on any given day. Can I find a $20 or $40 cigar that I’m going to like better? Yes. Am I going to like it that much better? Probably not.
It seems when you look at the Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25, and we’re going to make a Top 25 ourselves, we have to do that. When I look at their Top 25, they always seem to be in that $10 to $15 range. You’re going to get a Davidoff in there, but they all seem to be in that sweet spot. For instance, the Arturo Fuente 858s, that’s a $4 to $5 cigar. Is it a bad cigar? No, but the construction gets a little iffy. It gets a little spongy. I’ve had enough of them to know I would rather pay $9 and not have that issue. Flavor’s okay. Is it enough to pay more, or double, for the enjoyment of not having to deal with construction issues or filler being spongy?
That’s definitely part of what you’re paying for, a little better quality. There are definitely some of the rare releases out there that are worth the extra price, like the Lost City Opus X from Arturo Fuente. That is one of the most fantastic cigars out there. It does taste different. I don’t know exactly what it is, but that one I always tell people it is completely worth the $35 cigar. It’s that good. We sold a lot of them.
The Edicion de Silvio, that’s not a cheap cigar.
I haven’t even been introduced to those. You guys are the highbrow guys. You’re the other side of the tracks cigar smokers.
I do think to some extent there are two levels or three levels of cigars. You got your lower price point, the mid-range that’s $8 to $12, and then above that, there are some that are not worth it. There are some that really are. You’ve got some of the Padron Anniversaries, Opus X. There are a lot of these that are on a different level.
I don’t think I’ve ever smoked an Opus X.
You need to do that.
You’ve smoked enough of the premium ones, Lane. Drop one of them for me. I’ll smoke that.
We don’t have any. It’s one that’s allocated. We only get a few boxes every three or four months. They go fast.
This was a hell of a show. We touched on a lot of stuff. I’d like to revisit the price point stuff. We can do a show on talking about our favorite cigars at each price point and the differences between them. Lane, you said it pretty emphatically that you think you can fool me. Here’s the thing, maybe you can.
I bet I can put a great $5 stick in your hand and it will not be an obvious win by the $15 cigar. I won’t say you can’t tell.
The beautiful thing is I’m not necessarily saying I dare you to do it. I’m saying our readership should be able to know, “You can go to your humidor and get this $5 stick and you’re going to be happy with it.”
We keep coming back to the phrase a horrible luxury and I’m smoking a $17 cigar. I didn’t have to smoke a $17 cigar. I could have gone back there gotten a Cain or a Nub and been just as happy today, but it wouldn’t have been something new.
I’ve never smoked a Nub before. They’ve got a big section of it in the cigar shop that I go to. I’ve passed it up.
I did want to say one thing that’s not cigar-related before we disconnected things. I was listening to myself on the internet the other day. I was amazed at how much better the audio sounds between the My Father shows where I was on my iPhone and it didn’t sound great. The show where we had Drew from Saturday Down South on and that was our first show with the new mics. Even though they’re not a sponsor and it’s not cigar-related, I did want to make sure that I said thanks to Sean for getting us these new mics because they’re fantastic.
The Blue Yeti mics, I would say they’re probably a mid USB mic. They do a great job. They’re probably the podcaster’s choice when it comes to sounding great on the internet. They sound a lot better if you’ve got a screen in front of them if you hang them from the ceiling. There’s a lot of different ways you can use them, but you’re welcome. They do sound great.
It’s our first football game this weekend. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach on Monday, I’m excited about it. It’s a rematch of a Super Bowl with the same group of kids. We lost fourteen to six, but we beat them during the year at overtime. It’s going to be a great game, a good way to start off the season with a good team. We’re excited.
- 2015 Limited Edition AVO
- Kristoff Cameroon
- Petit Robusto
- AVO Heritage
- AVO No. 2
- AVO Classic
- AVO Domaine series
- Fratello Bianco
- My Father
- Flor de Las Antillas
- Alec Bradleys
- Long Live the King
- Fuente Short Story
- CLE Signature
- Quesada Oktoberfest
- Rocky Patel Royale
- RoMa Tobac
- Gran Toro
- Warped Cigars
- Julius Caeser
- Diamond Crown
- Gurkha Cellar Platinum
- Cellar Reserve
- 18 Year
- Kristoff Corojo
- Black Market
- Arturo Fuente 858
- Lost City Opus X
- Edicion de Silvio
- Padron Anniversaries