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Can A Cigar Be Too Strong?

Can a cigar be too strong to enjoy? That’s the gist of a recent thread in our Cuba and Cuban Cigars forum. A reader picked up a box of Bolivar Corona Extras (fine cigars, by the way) and was overwhelmed by their power, so much so that he didn’t enjoy them at all.

I haven’t had such an experience with Cuban Bolivars, but I’ve smoked a few cigars that have been too strong for me to enjoy. And I smoke a fair number of cigars, so if I have a problem with a cigar being too strong, I bet it happens to a good number of cigar smokers.

After Ashton VSGs became a raging hit, some cigarmakers responded by releasing blends with pumped up power. The VSGs were strong—early advertisements actually suggested the smoker be seated before lighting up—and helped spark a strong cigar trend. Some of the competing cigars were lovely, but a few contained all power and no finesse. I like a strong smoke, but I don’t like smoking something that is noticeably unbalanced. I’ll take peppery flavor but give me some sweetness to keep my tongue from hurting.

I remember a meeting in our offices many years ago when a group of cigar executives came in with a new blend. They had created the strongest cigar they could possibly make. We lit up, and from puff No. 1 it was as if I had put flame to a Scotch Bonnet. My throat burned. My tongue was aflame. And it felt like a mule had kicked me in the stomach.

I couldn’t smoke the entire cigar, and neither could anyone else in the room. I probably gave it a half an inch. I don’t think the men ever intended to sell the cigar: it was more science project than serious product development. But smoking it wasn’t fun at all.

I drop in on occasion to a cigar club in Connecticut called Club Perfecto, and last year during baseball season a club member named Dave handed me a smoke that had been dubbed “The Lobotomizer.” I thanked him, lit it up, and found it just too strong for my palate. (Who could have guessed?)

When I told Dave, I think he was surprised—He enjoys his cigars on the strong side, and was on his fourth or so of the day of that particular blend.

What about you? Have you ever smoked something that was too strong to enjoy?
Frank Levatino Club Perfecto, USA April 4, 2007 6:21pm ET
Hey Dave - many of us Club Perfecto members will frequently and fondly recall your introduction to the prototype for the El Cobre (aka Lobotomizer, Bruce Lee, etc.). The original version of this cigar, a Nicaraguan powerhouse (with Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper), was born out of Gilberto Oliva Sr.'s personal blend. When implored to send something mucho fuerte for some of the fellas @ Club Perfecto, it was our understanding that Gilberto sent us some of his personal stash, with the intention of turning a few of us to a lovely candela shade. However, as powerful as these great sticks were, they had tremendous flavor, and the lovefest was on. A little over a year later, the cigar that has come to be known as El Cobre (private label to Club Perfecto) was "born". For many of us (including myself) it is my standard & regular smoke(for me, roughly 2 boxes/ bundles a month for the last 2+years). With aging, the cigar has gained complexity, but may also have given back just a bit of that edge - then again, with as many El Cobre as I smoke, mine don't get much opportunity to age. I recently had the pleasure of introducing Greg Mottola to El Cobre, and Greg did acknowledge the power, but also said it was "as advertised", and gave the impression that he enjoyed his El Cobre encounter. I know it is also a fave of Scott from Smoke Signals in Port Jeff, NY - and I enjoy smoking these with him every opportunity we get. El Cobre - THE DEMANDING ONE(like El Exigente - remember from the Savarin commercials)...Big Smoke Rings....ooo0000OOOOO
Robert Funk California April 4, 2007 9:49pm ET
David, A bit off-topic. I just finsished watching some of the cigar videos. The "Cigar of the Year" video with James Suckling and Gordon Mott was fantastic; Please, please, please have more video tastings. It is great to see these "live" tastings. It shows the true meaning and emotions behind the tastings. It is mouthwatering video. Great job!
DAVE Savona New York April 5, 2007 2:07pm ET
Frank, thanks for the feedback. 50 a month? Sounds like you're a fan.And Robert, I'm glad you've enjoyed our first videos. We have more coming soon, and some will be video tastings while others will be shots from cigar factories and fields. Glad you like our new venture.
Frank Levatino Club Perfecto, USA April 5, 2007 4:43pm ET
Dave - With 900 mi. of commuting each week, this leaves me with plenty of time to enjoy my cigars, and my cigar of choice is often El Cobre. It is the preferred cigar of the Club Perfecto Weekly Thursday Night No Limit Texas Hold 'Em game. There isn't much more satisfying than flopping a set while sitting behind a sizable stack of chips, all the while meditating on an El Cobre Churchill.......Hope to see you soon, Dave.Happy Easter.Big Smoke Rings......ooo000OOOOO
Barry Kamen NY April 6, 2007 6:08pm ET
Although I have never had a problem with Cuban cigars I have never really enjoyed Rocky Patel/Indian Tabac cigars. They just seem too harsh. Of course some find the Opus X that I enjoy an a twice weekly basis a bit too strong. To each his own I guess.
Dave Wagner PA April 7, 2007 1:14am ET
Hey Dave,First, I love the blogs. I think they are a great addition.Second, and to answer the initial post, I think that most people eventually find a cigar too strong to enjoy. For me it was the JdN Antano when they first came out. I tried one for lunch (without eating) and it was definately too strong with no balance. That box is well aged now and pairs nicely with an Islay Single Malt. But when they first shipped....nothing but beads of sweat.Give the Lobotomizer another try Dave. I hear they are aging them a little longer before they arrive. I'll bet you smoke at least half this time.
DAVE Savona New York April 7, 2007 7:01pm ET
Frank, you're the grand champion of commuting. That's a lot of driving. Dave, I'll give El Cobre (the Lobotomizer) another shot sometime.
Matthew Caruso Jersey April 9, 2007 9:08pm ET
I just tried the La Flor Domincana Double Ligero Chiselo Maduro. I am not usually a fan of such a peppery smoke and Litto is heavy handed on the pepper on these cigars. However I absolutely loved them, I think the funky flattened tip is what won me over, it just make it so easy to draw, but what I was pulling in was real strong. It burned my eyes more than my throat. The best part was, I extinguished the cigar next to my car in the parking lot at my condo. When I got up the next morning, I could still smell the cigar. It was that strong.
Alan Hay California, USA April 24, 2007 6:01pm ET
I can't say that I have ever smoked a cigar that is too strong to be smoked, but my choice, Hoya De Nicaragua Antano, isn't one I'd smoke every day nor without eating and having a couple of drinks. I recently smoked one of the Grand Reservas and found it quite smooth and not as strong, but then I did have a few drinks first. One thing for sure, these cigars are strong and good value for the money.
DAVE Savona New York April 25, 2007 10:29pm ET
The Chisel and the Anta¿o are powerful smokes indeed.

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