Author: Calum

WE’RE BACK, BABY!

A quick aside from Calum:

So, full disclosure:  I started writing this blog around the end of March/start of April, before y’know… that THING happened. We remained open, but mostly focused on our massively increased demand for mail orders. It was insanely busy, so I didn’t have any time to sit and write, in order to finish that blog. It is now late June and things are starting to return to normal, so I’m picking the blog back up again. The first couple of paragraphs are from the abandoned March/April blog (with some dates/tenses changed a bit so it makes more sense) as it had some stuff in that I still want to say. The actual blog starts from the “ANYWAY.”

Wow. It’s amazing how much stuff can change in such a short period. I’m sure there isn’t a single person who (at the time of this blog going live) hasn’t felt that personally in some way over the last few months. Today’s topic was planned to basically be an extra addition to this blog that went live on Jan 31st 2020. So I read back through it to check I’m not repeating myself and couldn’t help an embarrassed, schadenfreude-filled laugh at my past self as I sit here now,  for lamenting that January 2020 had it already shaping up to be a rough year (with only the briefest reference to what I called a “scary virus.”) Oh, how naïve I was back then, if only I’d known what the next few months would hold.

Also, I don’t think I’ve actually said anything formally in any of my ramblings, but I sincerely hope everyone reading this is getting on OK, staying safe but most importantly, taking care of themselves, both physically and mentally. This is an insane and unprecedented period to be living through and it’s putting a lot of stress and pressure on all of us, but we’re all in this together and humans are a damn resilient species: we will get through this. If you are self-isolating, starting to get cabin-fever and want some digital company to chat about pipes or cigars or anything, please don’t hesitate to hit me up on twitter (@see_a_con.) Finally, I just want to give a massive shout out to all the key workers and essential service providers who have kept the country going through this madness, from NHS staff, to care workers, to supermarket workers and delivery drivers. You are the heroes who have kept us going through all of this and shown who among us is truly essential to keep this country going. Thank you all.

ANYWAY…

What’s happening on our end?

 Mushiness aside, we’re back to business as normal… ish. Naturally, our mail orders have been running round the clock, but our retail shops are now fully open to the public again too. Sadly, we still have a bit longer to wait before we can reopen our bars and sampling lounges (and start our sampling events up again.) but hopefully we’re nearing the end of the tunnel. Keep an eye on our various social media outlets for news and updates.

So, what’s new?

It’s peculiar, isn’t it? Due to “The situation,” even though it has been months since my last blog, there isn’t actually a huge amount new to talk about. However, there are a couple of things to report.

New Menthol Cigarillos?!

So, as I alluded to before, I was initially planning on writing about some additions to the options for menthol smokers, post menthol ban. These take the form of these interesting hybrids of cigarettes and cigarillos. They have the same filter and are roughly the size of a cigarette, but are wrapped in a tobacco leaf, so they are classed as cigarillos, rather than cigarettes. Now, here’s the kicker: due to the fact they’re technically cigarillos, they aren’t under the rules of cigarettes, so they can (and do) have a menthol capsule in them. If you are particularly adverse to cigarillos, but miss menthol cigarettes, there is even a thin layer of paper under the tobacco leaf, so you could potentially peel it off to make it even more like a cigarette. TBH though, it’s very fiddly and the paper is extremely thin, so it’s not very much like a cigarette and is more effort than it’s worth IMO, especially as they’re perfectly fine as a normal cigarillo. So far, two options are available:  Signature Dual Green and Sterling Dual Capsule.

“New” Cuban UK Regional Edition

Arriving fashionably late, the Gloria Cubana Britanica Extra was initially destined for release in 2017 but after multiple delays, it finally arrived Mid 2020. It is an extremely uncommon shape, based on the 2012 Bolivar Regional edition, named simply the “Britanica.” but two ring gauges larger, hence the “Extra” suffix. The Britanica style is extremely distinctive; it is a 5 3/8” x 48 vitola, pointed at both ends, similar to a perfecto, but with a far more open foot that still remains as pointed as possible. This makes for an easier light and draw, while retaining as many of the unique characteristics of the perfecto/double figurado format as possible. La Gloria Cubana itself is a rarely used blend in the UK, so any addition to its portfolio is a big plus in my book. As with any Regional Editions, they are only available in limited quantities, so don’t miss your chance to try them.  Expect roughly an hour of burn time, with medium bodied notes of wood and leather with a slight sweetness in the final third.

So, that’s us all caught up, I hope. I should be going back to weekly blogs, articles and videos going forward.

Until then: All the best and stay safe out there!

-Calum – Store Manager @ Turmeaus @ LCDH Chester

My A-Z of pipe tobacco

Week 1: A is for Alsbo

As I’ve said a whole bunch of times, there’s an insane amount of pipe tobacco brands available, even with the UK’s notoriously strict limits on what is available. The choice is daunting and it can be difficult to even decide where to start. So over the coming weeks and months (maybe even years… like I said: there’s a LOT of choice) I’m going to be going through the available brands of tobacco in alphabetical order and looking at each one in a little more depth, along with reviews of some of their blends (or all of them, if they only have a few.)

So, I’m kicking it off with “The remarkable Dane:” Alsbo.

As their tagline -The Remarkable Dane – implies, Alsbo is a Scandinavian style, aromatic range. Stylistically, Scandinavian Aros differ slightly from American ones and massively from English ones. English aromatics are usually more full bodied and powered by “Spice” tobaccos, such as Latakia and Perique. American Aromatics meanwhile, are much milder tobacco-wise and use flavoured “casings” to achieve a specific taste and aroma, such as vanilla or various fruit. On this scale, Scandinavian aromatics are much closer to American ones, in that they use casing rather than spices, but they tend to go a little lighter on the casing. This results in a more subtle taste that also allows the natural taste of the tobacco to shine through. Alsbo is a great representation of this style and they have been producing tobacco and refining their skills for over one hundred years.  Their range features three blends: Black, Sungold (Vanilla) and Ruby (Cherry.)

Alsbo Sungold (Vanilla)

Tobacco: Bright and orange Virginias and “Super mild” orange Black Cavendish.

I’ll probably say this a million times over the course of my life, but there’s something about the combination of tobacco and vanilla that just works and Alsbo Sungold is no exception. However, the risk with such a successful combo is an increased chance of getting lost amongst the competition when there are so many options available. Alsbo must be doing something right though as they have always stood out as one of the more popular vanilla-based options for pipe smokers. For me, the thing that makes them stand out is their unique choice of extremely mild tobaccos, which means they can also use a deliciously delicate vanilla casing, without risk of losing the taste under the flavour of the tobacco. When so many cased tobaccos just bombard your sweet tooth, the fact Sungold uses a more subtle and crisp vanilla flavour, combined with mild and ever so slightly sweet tobacco, really helps it stand out from the bustling crowd.

Alsbo Black

Tobacco: Cavendish and Black Cavendish

Even before we (as a nation) had to swap to using colour-coded names to describe flavours, Alsbo Black was always called Alsbo Black. So it has never actually been named by an “official” flavour. So, what is it? In an interesting choice, the casing used for Alsbo Black is… Vanilla… again. OK, OK, I’m being slightly facetious here, as the original packaging description lists Black as having a “Vanilla and Hazelnut” casing. So, it isn’t just the same flavour again, but it’s always struck me as a slightly odd choice. Just to add to the oddness; despite the name, Alsbo Black is primarily a mid-brown colour, with flecks of black throughout, in a relatively fine-cut shag. All concerns about weirdness (not that I mind things being weird, personally, I’m all about that) will immediately go up in smoke when lighting a bowl (GEDDIT?!)  however, as this blend is both delicious enough and different enough from Sungold just justify its eccentricities. The extra elements to the casing give it a much deeper, richer taste than the Sungold, while still being reserved enough to not compromise the tobacco taste. It also has a nice amount of room for the flavour to develop as you smoke and it sometimes starts to veer into cream and caramel territory; sweet and satisfying but never sickly. The fine cut of the shag also makes it extremely easy to light and keep lit; perfect as an all-day puffer.

Alsbo Ruby

Tobacco: Black Cavendish, Burley, Gold Virginias

The only thing that is on the same level of popularity as a tobacco flavour as vanilla is cherry. So, it should come as no surprise that Alsbo’s third and final flavour option is cherry. As is the case with Sungold, Alsbo have once again achieved the seemingly impossible by having a cherry flavour that stands out as popular in such a hotly contested position. Once again, they achieve this by taking the road less travelled. Most cherry flavour tobacco blends tend to go down the tried and tested “Black Cherry” route: A very sweet and rich type of cherry flavouring, like you might find in a bake well tart or similar. Alsbo Ruby, on the other hand, goes for a much more fresh and tangy version of cherry, making for a more refreshing and less sickly smoke. Definitely worth a try, especially if you already know you like cherry blends but fancy a change of pace.

So all in all, I’d say Alsbo is a great representative for the Scandinavian style of aromatic tobacco, while simultaneously having enough individual character to make it stand out from the competition. Well worth a try, either as in introduction to the style or as a change of pace from similar blends. If you pick up a packet, don’t forget: we love to hear what you think, so drop a review in the comments or via social media!

-Calum

Store manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

Pipe accessories and everything a new pipe smoker would need

Pipe smoking can be quite daunting when you start out as it can seem like there is an enormous amount of kit that is required to get you going. Once you have your set up sorted, pipe smoking is very economical, compared to cigars and cigarettes. However, it helps to know what you should prioritise when building your kit; what is absolutely necessary, what is useful and what is nice to have, but not vital. So today, I’ll be breaking down the various smoker’s accoutrements into these categories.

THE ESSENTIAL

As the title implies, these are the bits that you really can’t go without. Excuse me for stating the obvious (multiple times) but I’d like this article to be as comprehensive as possible.

Pipes

I mean… I don’t really need to elaborate on why a pipe is necessary for pipe smoking, do I? So, I’m not going to dwell on this part too much. However, I will put a shout out for some of our budget pipes, which are ideal for newcomers to the hobby. They’re a “Proper” wooden pipe, but you’re not spending a massive amount of money just to test the water. I’ve known far too many people who go for an extremely cheap pipe from eBay or a non-specialist shop, which turns out to be made of plastic with a metal bowl insert. Let’s just say these sorts of pipe are intended for stuff other than tobacco… and will probably shine an unfairly negative light on smoking pipes and possibly put people off for good. You’re much better off spending the few extra quid to get a proper wooden pipe from a specialist, which will give a much fairer representation of pipe smoking.

Tobacco

As with the above, this should go without saying. Once again, however, there are some that I’d particularly recommend for first timers. I usually suggest starting off with American Style tobaccos, such as American Blends or Century (also available as a sampler) as the tobacco itself is usually quite mild with a more prominent flavouring, so it can be easier to choose a blend, based on flavours you know you like already.

Pipe Cleaners

Now we’re moving into the slightly less obvious territory. While they might seem obvious to some, it’s surprising how often people overlook pipe cleaners when kitting themselves out. I don’t know if it’s because people sometimes forget this is their actual purpose, thinking of them as more of an arts and crafts item but it definitely happens more than you might expect (I blame Blue Peter and Art Attack.) In fact, I always remember the time a housemate (who knew I smoked a pipe) genuinely asked me why I had a pack of pipe cleaners. After realising she wasn’t joking, I said “Erm… To clean my pipes..?” and I saw the realisation in her eyes as it hit her. I dunno… I think some people think the “Pipe” part of the name refers to a different sort of pipe, or something.

Seriously though, I can’t understate how important pipe cleaners are when you first get a pipe. For how amazing pipe smoking can taste, it’s impressive just how foul it can become in comparison if the pipe hasn’t been cleaned for a while. Once a pipe gets dirty there is NOTHING that will clean them, other than pipe cleaners (there’s an option for additional cleaning, but I’ll get to that later.) There are various styles of cleaners available for different types of pipes, including slim ones for small pipes or longer ones for churchwardens. However, for simplicity, if you have a vaguely normal pipe, I recommend going for the tapered variety as they as designed to fit most sizes of pipe.

THE VERY USEFUL

Now we’re onto the things that you could technically manage without, or substitute for other things, but life will be much easier with them.

Pipe lighters

What makes a pipe lighter a pipe lighter? Put simply, it is just a regular lighter that has been adapted so the flame comes out horizontally, rather than vertically. This means you can aim the flame for the pipe bowl, with less risk of it licking back up and burning your thumb. Very handy, but you could theoretically still use a regular lighter, you just have to be more careful. A specialised pipe lighter is definitely the way to go for simplicity.

Smokers’ tools/knives

The Swiss Army Knife for smokers. Smokers’ tools/knives come with a variety of accessories on them, but consistently feature a couple of useful tools for pipe smokers. The most universal is a tamper, simply a flat, wide metal “head” of sorts, that is used to compress the ash at the top of your bowl as you smoke. The second and more variable tool is usually either a blade or a “Shovel” so to speak. More elaborate smokers’ tools usually have the blade (and are generally called “Smokers’ knives”) whereas the more budget friendly ones tend to have the shovel (and are usually just called “Smokers’ tools/companions.” Both are handy for helping to empty out any leftover tobacco at the end of a bowl and the knife variety can also be used for slicing Plug Tobacco and removing excess “Cake” on your bowl, more on that shortly…* Both can technically be replaced by anything metal that you don’t mind getting scuzzy from pipe ash (personally, if I don’t have a tool handy I use an old key that I have had on my keyring forever and long since forgotten what it opens… we all have one of those, right?) but it is much better to have a designated tool.

Pipe Reamers

*…and by shortly, I mean right now,

Over time and with normal usage, you should notice a layer of carbon building up on the inside of your pipe’s bowl. This is known as the “Cake” (not a lie) and in small amounts, cake is good. A universal truth, naturally, but it is also true when referring to a pipe’s cake, as it can help with the burn. However, left unattended, cake will continue to build up until you can barely fit anything into your bowl. This is where reamers come in handy. You simply push them down into your bowl and twist (I’m simplifying slightly, but that’s the gist) and they’ll gradually break down and remove the cake. It is possible to do this with a sharp knife and a steady hand, but you have to be extremely careful or you risk cutting yourself or worse: the inside of your pipe bowl!

THE BONUS

This final section features items that really aren’t technically necessary, but can add a bit of extra pleasure or convenience to the hobby of pipe smoking.

Pipe/tobacco  pouches

As this article has hopefully made abundantly clear: Pipe smoking comes with a lot of paraphernalia! As such, it can be handy to have a pouch for keeping everything in one place when you’re on the go. Pouches vary from simple ones that just store tobacco  to elaborate, multi-compartmented beasts, with enough pockets to store tobacco, multiple pipes and all the accessories you’ll need.

Pipe cleaning spray

When you need your pipe to be that extra level of clean, you can get Falcon Cleaning Spray. Technically designed for Falcon pipes, but it can be used for any wooden pipe. Just spray a bit into your bowl, let it sit, clear it out and then leave your pipe to air for little while before smoking, for the cleanest possible experience.

Extra Filters

Some pipes come with a space in the stem for inserting a filter. However, there are additional filters (or similar things that probably aren’t technically filters, but it’s the closest comparison so I’m going to lump them together here) that can be used, regardless of whether the pipe is technically a “Filter pipe” or not. These include chalk filters and stones that are placed at the bottom of a pipe bowl to absorb excess moisture for a dryer smoke and Dri-kules: little mesh baskets that also sit at the bottom of the bowl and prevent the tobacco from sitting in the moisture at the bottom of the bowl, also giving a dryer, cleaner smoke.

I think that’s covered all the “Basics” (and some things beyond that) so if you’re looking at the seemingly endless array of accessories for pipe smoking and don’t know where to start, I hope it helps you get an idea of what to prioritise!

-Calum

Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

Why we love C. Gars pipe tobacco samplers

Why we love C. Gars pipe tobacco samplers

Whether you’re a new pipe smoker or an experienced puffer on the hunt for something new, the range of pipe tobacco is simply mindboggling with hundreds of different tobaccos available. That’s why pipe tobacco samplers are such a handy idea; rather than committing to a full 50g tin or pouch, only to find you might have preferred something else in the end, you can get a small selection of different tobaccos to try a bunch of different ones for the same price.

So this week, I’m looking at the benefits of samplers, while highlighting a few I particularly like.

A nice entry point

As I mentioned, starting off as a new pipe smoker can be quite intimidating when it comes to choosing which tobacco to start off with. While any number of samplers can be used to give yourself a smattering of options and remove the guesswork, there are some that are especially geared towards this purpose. Our Beginners Lucky Dip sampler is a great place to start, as it will provide you with everything you need to get started, as well as four different, randomly selected tobaccos. Perfect for getting yourself started or as a gift for a friend who has shown interest in your pipe smoking but doesn’t know where to begin.

An air of mystery (as an added bonus)

A bit of a surprise is always fun, isn’t it? That’s why we have a range of “Mystery” samplers, where the tobacco included is a total surprise. Some of Liam’s samplers, such as the Mystery Tobacco/Peterson 101 pouch or the Churchwarden and pouch lucky dip bundle in some mystery tobaccos with some other items. So if you’re in the market for a new pipe or tobacco pouch, why not add an extra bit of fun and get yourself a few new random blends to try.

(Side note: I’ve just looked at the details for the Liam’s Churchwarden sampler and that thing is insane! A churchwarden pipe, a pouch and 5 x 10g portions of tobacco for under £40? Liam, have you gone crazy?!)

As an extra bit of fun (If, for example, you had to remain indoors for an extended period and were slowly losing your mind… not that it’s overly likely, of course, hoho) you could put your palate to the test and see if you could identify the mystery tobacco from smell and taste alone.

A way to try custom blends

You’ve probably seen/heard/read me banging on about this a bunch of times, so I’ll be brief. I used to love making custom blends for our shops or putting together a personal blend for one of our customers. Sadly, that all went down the drain when new laws came in a few years ago. However, thanks to samplers, we’re able to keep the spirit of custom blends alive. You can now buy a sampler that contains all the ingredients in the required amounts for you to simply mix together at home. At present, we only do the one: my very own Christmas pudding blend, but if enough people go for it (Hint hint!) we will look at adding more in the future.

Broadening your Horizons

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of only smoking one or two blends that you really like. After all, like I said earlier, it’s totally understandable that you don’t want to risk ending up stuck with 50g of tobacco that you don’t really like. So rather than taking that risk, you can try a sampler featuring a selection of blends in small, risk-free 10g portions. You could either roll the dice with one of the aforementioned mystery blends or try a selection from a specific brand, if you’re interested in a particular one, such as Jess’s Samuel Gawith Sampler or Lewis’s Century Sampler.

So that’s why we love our samplers, as always: I hope that’s given you some ideas!

-Calum – Store Manager @ Turmeaus Chester

Vaguely Quarantine related blog

Well… It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, hasn’t it!? It looks like it’s only going to get more interesting. I know we’re all sick (great choice of words, Cal) of the influx of “Here’s our plan for COVID-19” emails from every company we’ve ever given our email address to, so I’m not going to dwell on that too much. Suffice to say, we’ll be here until we basically get forced not to be. If we do get forced to close the retail shops, we will try to keep things running on the mail order side and for customers in the local area to our Chester store, we should hopefully be able to do local deliveries in the Tur-mobile (our company van

It’s hard to tell what situation we’ll be in at the time this goes live, but at the time of writing we’ve just had the PM’s announcement to avoid social gatherings and non-essential travel. So, there’s a reasonable chance you could be reading this either while working from home or under some kind of self-isolation circumstances. Now, I’m very much an “every cloud” type chap, so let’s have a look on the bright side and have a look at some XXL cigars that can be enjoyed, now that we have some extra me time and can spend slightly longer with cigars than we usually could. Yes, that is my tenuo

us link to tie current events into cigars and tobacco. Hell, it was either this or “My top 5 Coronas,” but that seemed in pretty bad taste…

Sancho Panza Sanchos

I’m not messing around this week; I’m going straight in with one of the biggest Havanas available. The “Sancho Sancho” is a Gran Corona Vitola, which means it shares the famous Churchill format’s 47 ring gauge (a big enough cigar in and of itself). However, at 9 ¼ inches long, the Sancho Sancho towers above the 7” Churchill. As a bonus, many of the Sancho Sanchos I’ve seen have been from 1999, so are extremely well aged, but even the younger ones tend to have at least 15 years ageing on them, which has really allowed the semi-sweet, woody blend to shine.  You’ll need to allow at least 2-3 hours to let this cigar gradually and sumptuously reveal its flavours to you, but man, it’ll be a good 2-3 hours!

CLE Asylum cigars

As the name implies, these cigars are a little bit insane. While the previous entry shows Havana cigars aren’t afraid to reach out into large sizes, New World cigars are a whole, well… New world. The CLE Asylum range are classic Nicaraguan cigars, with dark, oily wrappers and a powerful blend, with notes of strong espresso and a fiery spiciness simmering just below the surface. Among others, they feature two eyebrow raising cigars; the 7” x 70 Hercule and the 6” x 80 Goliath. To be safe, I’d clear a good three hours for either of these cigars.

Alec Bradley Texas Lancero

Everything’s bigger in Texas! This is one of the tried and tested “Extreme” sized cigars. Rather than coming from a company exclusively makes borderline comedically sized cigars, the Texas Lancero is made by Alec Bradley, one of the best regarded and most popular New World Cigar makers. So you know this isn’t just a novelty cigar, it is a true, premium hand made cigar, that just so happens to be over an inch in diameter! Featuring a combination filler from Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica, this hefty cigar is rich and complex, but manages to maintain a cool smoke, even in its final third, which is impressive, considering its intimidating gauge.

Honourable mention for Pipe Smokers: Mr Brog – Mason

Just so the pipe smokers don’t feel left out, here’s one of our biggest pipes! With a bowl that stands at nearly 10cm tall, Mr. Brog’s Mason pipe can take an enormous amount of tobacco, that you can puff away at for hours!

I hope that’s given some ideas for anyone who is quarantined or self-isolating! Stay safe out there, people!

-Calum

Store Manager @Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

Some things to look forward to… Finally

As I write this, still slightly damp from the sleety rain that bombarded me when I nipped out for lunch,  I can’t help but reflect jealously on C.Gars’ own Mitchell and Roy, whom – if you follow us on social  media – I’m sure you have seen are hard at work out in Cuba, for the annual Habanos  Festival. This is where upcoming Havana releases are announced and sampled, so as solace to those of us still shivering in the UK, I thought I’d give a quick run down of what we can expect to arrive out of Cuba soon.

Romeo y Julieta Linea D’oro

Romeo y Julieta celebrates its 135th birthday this year and to mark the occasion they are releasing a brand-new line; Linea D’Oro (Gold Line.) This will feature three brand new sizes, all of which will be trend-friendly, heavy gauge offerings. Look forward to seeing the Dianas (5 11/16” x 52,) The Hidalgos (4 15/16” x 57) and The Nobles (a 5 5/16” x 56 Figurado.) A significant thing to note here: the 57 gauge Hidalgos will be the heaviest gauge Havana to be available in regular production (previously, we haven’t seen anything above a 56 gauge outside of Edicion Limitadas and even then: only very occasionally.) The Nobles will also be the heaviest gauge figurado Havana to date.  I’ve always been a big fan of heavy gauge Romeos, so I’m very excited to see this chunky trio arrive in the UK.

New LCDH & Havana Specialist Lines

Montecristo are also releasing a new cigar to celebrate a milestone birthday (their 85th anniversary.) So, they are releasing the Herederos; an elegant 6 3/8 x 47 offering. This shares a ring gauge with the legendary Julieta No.2 (More famously known as The Churchill) format, but is just over half an inch shorter. These will be exclusive to Habanos Specialists (which all Turmeaus establishments are) and Casa del Habanos.

Speaking of La Casa del Habanos; the franchise turns 30 this year so a new LCDH Exclusive is being released. Funnily enough, the Juan Lopez brand is celebrating a milestone birthday, their 150th. So, the new LCDH exclusive, the 6 11/16” x 52 Juan Lopez Seleccion Especial is being released as a joint celebration of the two occasions.

…and even more:

We can also look forward to seeing the following:

Partagas Tropicales (6 7/8” x 54) 175th anniversary humidor

Bolivar Belicosos Finos Reserva (Cosecha 2016)

Hoyo de Monterrey Primaveras (6 9/16” x 48)

And the first announced 2020 Edicion Limitada: The Partagas Legado (6 3/16” x 48)

So that’s everything we have to look forward to. Just remember the old adage of this trade; “This is Cuba…”  As any regular cigar smoker knows, Cuban cigar releases run on a particularly erm… “Laid back” time scale, so we might not see all of these cigars this year… or next year, but they’re on their way. Which are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments or via our Social Media outlets.

Personally, I’m always down for a new, heavy gauge Romeo, so the Linea D’oro is very exciting. I’ve also never had a Partagas Edicion Limitada that I didn’t love, so I can’t wait to try the Legado.

-Calum

Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester.

Cuban Hidden Gems

When you have the choice of hundreds of cigars, it’s only natural for some to rise to the top while others fall by the wayside. The funny thing is there aren’t really any bad Havana’s, it’s just a case of some being less popular than others. So, this week I’m going to take a look at some of the Havana cigars that I feel deserve a lot more love than they get.

Ramon Allones Specially Selected

I’m putting this first because it could be argued that they do have a reasonable following. In fact, they’re what you might call an “Insider cigar,” in that they seem to be extremely popular with members of the cigar trade. Ramon Allones is easily one of my favourite brands personally and it’s only the fact that the range is somewhat limited that holds them back for me. I’m certainly not alone in this, as many of my colleagues rate them extremely highly and they also seem to be a favourite among the directors at UK Havana cigar importers Hunters & Frankau. Colloquially referred to as the “Rass,” it is a full bodied Robusto, with extremely rich notes of cocoa, toffee and spice. Sadly, it’s often overshadowed by the other powerful Robustos, namely the Bolivar Royal Corona and the Partagas Serie D No.4, which make for some extremely tough competition.

 

Fonseca KDT Cadetes

Fonseca is a very underappreciated brand in general, which I’ve always found perplexing. They’re a super approachable blend and their unique tissue wrapping makes them eye-catching, while offering some physical protection. They’re also particularly well priced when compared to other, similarly sized Havanas. The KDT Cadete is an easy smoking, inexpensive cigar so If you’re ever looking to introduce a friend to Havanas, these are a perfect choice. Sadly, they are often outshone by more established mellow brands, like Hoyo de Moronterrey and H. Upmann.

Vegas Robaina Familiares

This one really baffles me; not only is it a great blend to begin with, but it’s also one of the few corners of the Habanos portfolio where you can reliably find well-aged stock. I don’t think we’ve ever stocked a box of that didn’t have a box code from 1999. So you can consistently pick up a Cuban Corona with 20+ years ageing, for under £20. What’s not to love? As I said, the blend itself is absolutely amazing; rich chocolate and treacle notes, it’s like a pudding you can smoke!

Upmann No.2

This is quite an interesting case; H. Upmann is a popular brand in general and couldn’t be considered a “Hidden gem” by anyone’s metric. However, not every format within a brand can be as popular as others and -while it certainly has a few devotees- H. Upmann’s Piramides, the No.2, is one that a lot of people seem to skip over.  It’s understandable when you consider that some of its rival Piramides are some of the most popular formats in their respective brands, or in some cases: the entire Habanos range (the Partagas Serie P No.2 and Montecristo No.2, in particular.) On its own, however, the Upmann No.2 is a fantastic smoke. I have a real thing for mild, creamy cigars with a big ring gauge, giving copious amounts of delicately flavoured smoke, to tantalise your palate, rather than bombarding it.  Expect the classic Upmann creamy coffee notes, with a slight, subtle hint of black pepper.

Romeo y Julieta Churchill Tubed (Anejados)

Ok, ok, so I’ve broken my own rules a lot in this list (but I’ve always been a bit of a rebel… I even ate a Cuppa Soup from a bowl once…) but I realise this one might seem like I’m taking the proverbial Michael even more than the rest. Romeo y Julieta is one of the most famous cigar brands in the world and the Churchill is one of its most famous formats. So how can I call it a hidden gem? Well; they recently released a Tubed Churchill to join the Anejados (aged) range and it seems to have passed a lot of people by. Cigars selected for the Anejados range are usually aged for 5-8 years, but the Churchills they have chosen are from 2007! So, we’re already talking 13 years of ageing at the time of writing, not to mention that 2007 was already being considered a fantastic year for Havanas, even as close to it as 2010, when the cigars had barely even begun to age. So you can imagine how incredible they are now. So: It’s one of the world’s most popular brands, in one of the best formats, from one of the best years in the last decade or so, aged for 10+ years… people should be tripping over eachother to get their hands on these and I honestly can’t understand why they aren’t. Get them before everyone realises!

Those are five of my top picks for cigars that don’t get the love they deserve. Let us know what you think if you give them a try. Alternatively, what cigars would you consider underappreciated? We always love to hear your opinions, so let us know!

-Calum

Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH – Chester

Cherried Alive

One thing I find myself repeating a lot when I write/present pipe tobacco reviews is “Cherry is a very popular and frequently used flavour for pipe tobacco.” It’s true; if you look at basically any brand of pipe tobacco that makes flavoured blends, you can bet your last penny on them doing a cherry flavoured blend. However, even with all those cherry flavours available I don’t think I’ve ever done a comparison or ranking of all of them, as just because something gets done a lot, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done right!

Century Black C: B23

This is what I’d call our “Classic” black cherry blend. It has a nicely varied base consisting of Virginias, Burley and Cavendish. The cherry flavouring definitely takes the forefront of the taste, but that’s not to say it totally overrides the taste of the tobacco; the slightly sweet Virginia and toasty Cavendish do occasionally poke their heads through the flavouring. If you’re looking to try out cherry blends, this is a great place to start.

Kentucky Black C Cav

I like this one for being quite different. It definitely has a cherry taste but it’s a much more tart, tangy cherry, that occasionally flits into more floral territory. Also, despite most cherry flavours calling themselves “Black cherry,” this is one of the few blends that extends the “black” to the tobacco itself. It is a deep, jet black Cavendish that gives a rich, sweet undertone that contrasts beautifully against the tanginess of the casing.

Alsbo Ruby

We’re moving into Scandinavian territory now with “The Remarkable Dane,” Alsbo Ruby. As you might well know, Scandinavian aromatics are characterised by a slightly more reserved approach to casing than their American brethren. This means the taste is usually more balanced between tobacco and casing. This isn’t to say the tobacco is strong; Alsbo Ruby’s mixture of cured Black Cavendish, Golden Virginias and fine Burley is pronounced without being overwhelming and balances nicely against the unusual black cherry & wild cherry combo of the casing.

Borkum Riff Ruby

Sticking with Scandinavian aromatics, Borkum Riff Ruby is a Cavendish style blend, made from fermented Burley and Kentucky tobacco. As is the trademark style, the cherry casing is noticeable, but doesn’t totally dominate the taste of the tobacco. There is a pleasant, toasty and sweet taste from the tobacco, which harmonises nicely with the casing. Speaking of which; the cherry taste is pleasantly fresh and they’ve also snuck a hint of vanilla in there, but cherry is very much the focal point of the blend.

CC Flake

This one only just snuck onto this list. For the sake of consistency, I’ve tried to limit it to pure cherry blends, hence the lack of flavours such as “Cherry & Vanilla” or “Sherry & Cherry.” However, in CC flake the initials stand for “Cherry Cream,” but I’ve decided to let it in as – in my experience – “cream” tends to be more “flavour text” (no pun intended) within naming conventions and lets be honest: cream doesn’t really taste of much anyway, does it? So, slightly longer than necessary preamble over: I think this one shapes up really nicely against the competition. The fact it’s the only flake on the list gives it the advantage of being versatile, but the flavour is very pleasant too. There is a toasty character to the tobacco which combines well with the light cherry flavouring and almost gives a flavour of cherry pie.

That’s one of the first times I’ve tested and compared a load of cherry flavours in succession and I’m pleasantly surprised at how varied an extremely common flavour can be. If I had to pick a favourite, I’d lean towards the CC Flake, simply because of its versatility. However, it seems like it’s a hard flavour to go wrong, as it appears that cherry and tobacco is as natural a combination as peanut butter and chocolate. Now, if someone could just make a peanut butter and chocolate flavour blend, we’d really be talking!

-Calum

Store Manager @ Turmeaus & La Casa del Habano – Chester

The birth (and subsequent rebirth) of Trinidad

As part of La Casa del Habano franchise we are very fortunate to have access to the most comprehensive range of Havana cigars in the UK. This gives us quite a unique view on the current cigar zeitgeist as we sell brands of hugely varied levels of popularity. From legends such as Cohiba and Montecristo, that even the most casual cigar smokers have heard of, to comparatively unknown brands, such as Fonseca and Rafael Gonzalez, we sell them all and get to see how people respond to them.

One brand that has been fascinating to observe over the last few years has been Trinidad. Relatively speaking, they’re an extremely new brand. Released in 1998, they’re barely toddlers compared to some of the centuries-old industry standards and for a majority of their life, they flew under the radar.  This has always mystified me, as the Trinidad blend is amazing. Creamy, delicately sweet and aromatic, they are often compared to Cohibas, which is fitting as they both originated as diplomatic gifts from Cuba, before being released to the public in small amounts.

So, why the apathy towards them? Other than the slightly confusing naming convention (I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had someone say “No, I said I wanted a cigar from Cuba, not Trinidad!” when I’ve recommended a Trinidad) in my experience, it was down to one main issue: unfortunate timing.

As I said, Trinidad was launched to the public in 1998 and at the time it was available in one size only: the slim, elegant Fundadores, which measure up at 7 ½” by a 40 ring gauge. Within ten years of their launch, smoking bans had started to creep their way across the globe and long, 1hr+ burn time cigars like the Fundadores began to decline in popularity, in favour of shorter, stockier, more compact cigars. The Fundadores were eventually joined by three more vitolas in 2003; the Reyes, Coloniales and Robusto Ts, but out of the four sizes, only the Robusto T could be considered a heavy gauge cigar. However, the Robusto T was already overshadowed by Robustos from far more established brands and it was eventually dropped from their portfolio. So, it came to be that Trinidad remained an often overlooked hidden gem; Slim, graceful relics of a bygone era, lost in the ocean of their stouter, more contemporary rivals.

However, in the middle of the 2010s something happened; something called the Trinidad Vigia. Standing proudly at 4 1/3” and a hefty 54 gauge, the Vigia was a true cigar for the time. People who had previously overlooked the brand started trying it and those people started loving it. The Trinidad blend had always been fantastic, but now it was being showcased in a far more accessible format and it really didn’t take long for word to get out about it.  Over the last few years Trinidad has grown to be one of our best-selling brands at La Casa del Habano – Chester. The fact that in the last year the Vigia has been joined by two more, similarly chunky Trinidads (The Topes and the Media Luna) with a third – the Esmeralda – due to hit stores any day now, shows that we’re not the only cigar shop to see this cigar brand rise from the ashes.

All in all, it’s been amazing to watch the Trinidad trend change over the last few years, from a relatively unknown brand, to one that can stand toe to toe with the big boys of the industry, all in the space of just 22 years, all thanks to one small (or should I say big?) change of direction.  If you’re yet to try a Trinidad, I can’t recommend them enough. We now have the Esmeraldas available!

-Calum

Store Manager @ Turmeaus & La Casa del Habano – Chester.

This one’s in the bag

The UK tobacco trade is a funny old thing. Well, by “funny” I really mean “often near tear inducingly frustrating.” From the extremely heavy tax, to the rainbow of blends and flavours of cigars and pipe tobaccos we aren’t allowed to carry for whatever reason, there’s always something. One thing that has stood out to me in the decade-plus that I’ve been in this trade (Crickey…) is “Snus.” Hugely popular in Scandinavian countries, Snus is basically a teabag-style bag that contains a snuff-like tobacco, which is placed between the lip and gum. I’d been given a few bags to try from various people over the years and I’d always enjoyed the sensation and taste, but the powers that be had always prevented it from being sold here for… reasons.

Now, this is very much still the case. However, a few enterprising sparks have created “Chewing bags.” Functionally, these are basically the same as Snus, but are juuust different enough to be classed as a different product (For example, the chewing bag tobacco is finely cut whereas snus tobacco is finely ground) and can therefore be sold in the UK. I’m no expert in Snus, having only had limited experience with it, but as far as I can tell, there isn’t any discernible difference between the two.

While they aren’t something I use often, I do really enjoy the odd chewing bag. They have a very unique flavour and are genuinely quite invigorating. As a self-confessed caffeine fiend, I occasionally find myself hit by a caffeine crash and I’m often amazed at how much a chewing bag perks me up when I’m in danger of nodding off at work. It’s been amazing to see how much these have taken off in the last year, going from something unheard of in the UK, to something available in a variety of flavours and even some tobacco-free “nicotine pouches.” Even the newsagent around the corner from our Chester shop stocks a few now!

The range has exploded so much in the last 12 months, it can be quite baffling to get your head around at first, so here’s a few of my personal favourites to give you some ideas.

Thunder Iceboom

Not gonna lie: It was partially the name that attracted me to this one. However, once I tried it, I realised these bags had a lot more going on than just a cool name. Their fresh mint and fruity flavour are extremely refreshing, but their nicotine strength is definitely high enough to get your attention.

Oden’s Siberia -80 Degrees Blue

These are one of our best sellers in Chester, which goes to show one thing: our customers are brave and like it strong! They have an extremely high nicotine content, which is balanced out with a very cool and refreshing spearmint flavour. With so many menthol varieties of tobacco out there, I always like it when a brand puts a twist on the formula with a spearmint taste instead, so these are a winner in my book too!

ZYN Citrus (Tobacco Free)

Here’s an interesting quirk of chewing bags: the “Tobacco free” versions aren’t completely awful! Anyone who has ever tried a tobacco free smoking mixture/cigarette will know what I mean… However, I was very surprised when I tried my first non-tobacco pouch. The nicotine is extracted from the tobacco, but everything else is left out. ZYN pouches are also available in a menthol flavour, but I’m a big fan of citrus flavours, so I was naturally drawn to these. They have the same satisfying tingle and are just as invigorating as the tobacco versions. They also taste absolutely delicious, like a bag of lemon sherbet with an added punch of nicotine. Well worth a try!

If you’ve been intrigued by these new products popping up, now’s a great time to try. They’re a very unusual way of tasting tobacco, as well as being discreet (and consumable anywhere!)

-Calum, Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester