New World by AJ Fernandez

After having such a great smoke of the H. Upmann, I was curious to see if the other cigars by AJ Fernandez were just as good. One of the cigars that they seem to lead with is the New World, which is a medium body cigar with Nicaraguan wrappers and fillers that I generally prefer. Back at King Corona Cigars, and this cigar has my full attention. Or, at least as much as my attention that my usual glass of Merlot and my companion at King Coronas would allow to be spared. And it was a great day to sit outside and people watch in downtown Ybor.

Before lighting, the cigar has an aroma that is best described as a creamy coffee leather. I am starting to believe that the flavor profile of the AJ Fernandez line will always have a creamy aspect to it. But this cigar is a little on the sneaky side, after it was lit the aroma changed profile to a peppery creamy coffee leather. As peppery cigars are my jam, I was very pleased with this. I also found the cigar ring to be a rather classy affair, evoking images of Old World/New World history.

As I smoked the cigar the leather flavors actually became less pronounced, the rest of the stick staying with a coffee peppery creaminess that was really very enjoyable as I finished the cigar. I know it sounds like a weird combo — creamy pepperiness — but that’s exactly what this stick managed to pull off. The draw was smooth, making for a fairly decent foot. This is definitely a cigar I can highly recommend and will probably smoke again soon.

Asylum Medulla at King Corona

So one time, at King Corona, I was perusing the humidor wanting something more woodsy and peppery.  The associate pointed me to the Asylum 13, and then directed my attention to the Medulla and the Oblongata.  These are the same cigar, but the Medulla is round while the Oblongata is box pressed.  While I usually favor the box pressed cigar, I decided to give the round version of this blend a try instead.   As I have already confessed I like the pepperiness of the Asylum 13 in general, my curiosity was piqued to see the difference between the  13 and the Medulla.

The cigar comes with a nice bit of tissue paper wrapping, and you can smell a distinct cedar aroma through the paper.  Unwrapped and unlit, the pepper and the cedar are more evident.  The wrapper on this is a bit more veined than the usual Asylum 13, which is a nice touch.

I smoked this with my usual house Merlot at King Corona.  A small personal aside– while a wine bar with friends, I overheard the sommelier explain that Merlot had still lost some popularity because of the movie Sideways.  Folks, that movie was 14 years ago. Merlot is amazing. Don’t let one cranky scene in a movie dictate you away from a delicious vino– if you choose to try it and not like it, that’s okay.  Side rant over, this cigar was very nice with the dry Merlot and would probably work well with a good whiskey, bourbon, and for a non-alcoholic twist, a nice root beer.

It starts off heavy on the cedar, but it doesn’t feel like I’m smoking the tree because that peppery aroma that I like form this line is still quite evident.  At the midpoint of this cigar, there was actually even a soft fruity undertone, like a persimmon.  It wasn’t very obvious, it was subtle but it did take the intensity off the cedar flavor and and made the pepperiness brighter.

The draw is very easy,  and keeping a foot together was a little more difficult than usual for me. Your mileage may vary, but I did find that I had to ash this rather frequently, and I suspect the loose draw might have been at play with that.  I have not yet tried the box-pressed Oblongata, but I’d be willing to bet that this ashing situation would not be as prevalent on that cigar.   Either way, the smoke was invigoratingly peppery, with enough cedar to be a little differing for me.  A good smoke for a relaxing time outside.

Hyde at Cigar Cave

After mentioning that I had the Hyde and the Jekyll together in my last post, I felt bummed that I had no evidence of Hyde to share.  Then a trip to Cigar Cave in Palm Harbor happened.   I hadn’t been to this lounge in over two years, so I am happy to report that it was an amazing trip.  Cigar Cave had been pretty great the first time around, but they’ve put in new (new to me, I’m sure it’s been around a while) seating that looks swanky and was really comfortable, and the humidor looks to be a little better organized.  The area feels more open than the time I had been there before.  I walked into the humidor wondering about the Pudgy Monsters and when one of the staff asked me if I needed help, I asked about them.  He said that they didn’t have any Pudgy Monsters and he wasn’t sure if they’d get any boxes, but he did have some Skinny Monsters– and this was good enough news for me!

Swanky Cigar Smokin' Chair

The associate led me out of the walk in humidor and took me over to a special case closer to the bar, where he had a healthy number of Skinny Monster Hydes and Jekylls.  I strongly recommend both of these for your enjoyment.  I then went to see Nicky at the bar, and she poured me an amazing Cabernet Sauvignon and I went to go sit in that cushy chair in the corner to enjoy my lovely Skinny Hyde.

Fresh Cut Skinny Hyde

Unlit, this cigar has undertones of the pepper that I get much more strongly in the Jekyll.  From the Hyde, I get much more wood notes before it was lit, especially some cedar.  When it’s lit, the pepper comes through with the wood aromas, almost like a spicy oak with some nuances of leather.   At the mid-point, I felt like the oak flavors had taken the place of the cedar, and there was some other spiciness working with the pepper. It seemed more like a subtle melange of spices than just straight up pepperiness.

Hyde Foot

The draw on the cigar is very easy, making it a smoke that goes a little faster than I would usually want but it is a Skinny Monster, so that is to be expected. It makes for a great foot, and I also found it worked well with the cab sauv, having a second glass to finish off the cigar. Nicky is very generous with the wine pours, and her suggestions on other imbibements were spot on.  The end of the stick actually had some notes of vanilla, cedar, leather and the pepper was much stronger here.  While the Jekyll was a pow-to-the-kisser peppery all the way through (which I love), the Hyde has really interesting layers to it’s aromas.  Just not quite the same eye opening punch as it’s partner stick,  but still a good cigar.

Tatuaje Jekyll & Hyde

I’ve been watching old episodes of Top Gear on Amazon Prime, and James Nesbitt was the celebrity guest on the episode I watched yesterday.  He looked so familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him until I realized that I had thoroughly enjoyed his portrayal of Hyde and Tom Jackman in the BBC mini series of Jekyll.  I felt that he had executed the role of two men in one physical form quite well, he almost felt animated as Hyde.   This is still one of my favorite adaptations of the story and if you can get a chance to watch it, please do.  It’s definitely a horror story with elements of a crime drama and just a dash of dry humor to really be enjoyable.

Charming Jekyll
Photo from IMDB:

But as I was watching his go around the track with the Top Gear crew, I remembered how I had saved two of the Tatuaje Pudgy Monsters for years to have an occasion special enough to smoke them: the Jekyll and the Hyde.  A few months back, I was in a rather nasty accident with an uninsured driver. Had it not been for my own fast reactions, more than my car would have been totaled. Those next days, I decided the occasion that was special enough to smoke those cigars was that I was still standing (albeit, painfully, but still standing) and that saving things for a special occasion may not always lead to that said special event.  So I broke out the Han in Dark Chocolate Carbonite, some wine, and my Jekyll and Hyde.

Han in Dark Choconite

I was still a little shaken to drive the Sunday after the accident, so my friends met me at my apartment’s patio to enjoy their cigars with me.  And I had saved these for so long that I honestly don’t remember where the Jekyll came from (it was released in 2014), but I know that the Hyde had been given to me by a friend who also loved the Pudgy Monsters series. The Hyde had been enjoyable but I had forgotten to get any evidence of this (which is a damn shame), so we’re going to go full force into the Jekyll, which was definitely my favorite of the two.


Tatuaje did a clever thing with the rings on the Monsters series– they’re all colors that would be associated with the beastie they’re named after.   For the Jekyll, it’s a lighter cream label with a hint of green while the Hyde label is full on green and black, in honor of the potion that Jekyll made to become is more dramatic half.   While one might think a cigar that has been crafted after a character who was conflicted about his own goodness and vileness would be mild and demure, the Jekyll is probably one of the pepperiest cigars I’ve had. I absolutely loved it.  The first whiff while unlit was earthy and peppery, with a tinge of something that reminds me of the ocean.

Lit Jekyll

After being lit, the spicy pepper smoke takes over.  It feels as though there’s a bit of salt to the stick, just to make the peppery notes even more pronounced.  The beginning of this cigar were both light and punchy at the same time– as the aroma of chili wasn’t expected but it wasn’t a heavy handed tobacco flavor.  At the midpoint, the earthiness comes back, and the saltiness dies down.  The peppery smoke stayed with me through the whole of the smoke, though.  It was relentless and amazing.   The draw was firm, but not difficult and this cigar was definitely a longer smoke.  It made me slow down and actually savor the moment, which was precisely what my rattled nerves needed.

This is a fantastic stick, and I am hoping to grab more of the Pudgy Monsters this October, if I’m so lucky to find another box of them.

Ashton Symmetry with a Summer Storm

I had the lovely opportunity to smoke an Ashton Symmetry Prism this past weekend, and due to a flashy summer storm, also had a chance to admire the quality of this cigar.

While we Floridians do get accustomed to the daily storm, lately the weather had been doing the rainy bit earlier in the day.  This particular weekend decided to wait to throw a doozy of a weather system at us just as it was prime cigar time.

We're going to need a bigger boat

This is just a summer storm, not even a tropical depression.  So, lots of bangs and flashes from the thunder and the lightning.   We started our cigars on under an umbrella, so I got a few moments to admire the Ashton I was gifted.

Lovely Cigar Ring

Since this cigar was donated to my education in cigars, I won’t go into the location at which it was purchased. The cigar ring is very regal, and certainly eye catching. It’s made a great addition to my collection.  The smell of the unlit cigar is leathery, oaky, with notes of vanilla and coffee.  It cuts nicely, and lights very evenly.  The first draw is stronger on the oak side, the hints of vanilla and leather entwining with the smoke that lingers and twists in the air soothingly.

Just as I started to get a good foot going, the lightning of the aforementioned storm started to get a little too close for comfort.  This required a hasty retreat to a more covered location to finish cigar time with my friends.  I had to prop my cigar in my heirloom cigar ashtray, move from one side of the house to another, and then arrange a few things to sit back down before I could finish my smoke.  This probably worked out to be a ten minute process. This photo is a blurry image of the foot as I was getting my accessories arranged to move to a safer seat.

Ashton's foot as I beat a run to shelter

Not only was this a pretty nice foot– the cigar stayed lit that full ten minutes it took to get settled again.  I didn’t even have to draw heavily to continue the smoke, it was as though I had just set it down for a moment.   I’ve had some cigars that would lose their ember if I let it linger for more than a few minutes– barely enough time to get a drink refill.   This allowed me to continue to enjoy the cigar where I had left off.  The Symmetry is a beautiful smoke through and through– at the midpoint the oak gets a hint of cedar and a bit more of a leather aroma to it, finishing with a delightful mix of leather and oak with a suggestion of coffee.  I can see why this is a highly ranked and recommended cigar, as well as the go-to label for the friend who gave it to me.   The Ashton Symmetry is definitely a winner.

Java by Drew Estate and Oliva Series G at King Corona

For this post, I’m reviewing cigars I like with coffee, and also the very first two cigars I had ever had at the very place where I had them.  Caffeinated nostalgia for the win!

King Corona has one of my favorite espresso drinks, the Cafe Corona, a blend of espresso and steamed milk and just enough cayenne caramel to warm your tongue and pleasantly sweeten the beverage.  While I’m usually not a sweets person, this is one of the only “not blacker than my soul” coffees I will imbibe because it’s really just that good. And I like spicy.

Cafe Corona

For Sunday cigars, I opted to jump into the wayback machine and picked out the first two cigars I had ever smoked.   A Java by Drew Estate and an Oliva Series G.   And I bought them at King Corona, so it was a happy memory.  I also have found that I do tend to favor the boxed press cigar, but maybe because I also like the Huey Lewis and the News song “Hip to Be Square.” As I started with the Cafe Corona, I also started with the Java.  I know some cigar folks out there are not fans of flavored or infused cigars, but I like when they’re very well done as they can have a completely different mood suffuse through the smoke.  The Java is definitely a sweeter than most cigars, and the only thing it’s really infused with is a strong coffee flavor.  I’ve had some of the other renditions, but I really prefer just the simple Java.  The ring for the cigar is very plain, but it’s a bit of ‘simpler is better.’ When you smell it pre-lit, the smell is mostly coffee and a tinge of leather.

Java by Drew Estate

After lighting, the first thing that I noticed when I smoked it the first time and when I have smoked it each time since, is that the wrapper is very sweet.  Almost on the edge of cloying, but not quite.  As this is a cigar based on coffee, the coffee aroma is definitely the strong suit of this cigar and it will be prevalent through the whole stick, but it actually seemed strongest in the middle.  Here it blended with a bit more of a leathery aroma and a bit of chocolate.  The draw is medium, making the foot a bit more of a challenge. I do find that this cigar does smoke rather quickly, so perhaps the tighter draw is to help one savor it.   While I enjoyed this stick, I would regard it as a dessert cigar, or something to help someone with a sweet tooth (like me) acclimate to the world of cigars.   It’s certainly very sweet, but there is always a time for such a thing.

Java Foot

Then we go on to the Oliva Series G, which while good with the last bit of my coffee, really opened up when I switched to a glass of the house Merlot.  This cigar is a prize winner, and it’s easy to see why.  The aroma of the stick is light cedar with some leathery notes before lighting, but the leather takes over after it’s lit.  At the mid-point, this had more of a leathery coffee profile, and then it finished with a mostly coffee cedar aroma.

This cigar smokes very cleanly and the draw is smooth and even.   I did have some difficulty getting a good foot on this one, but I’ve had success on other occasions. The smoke does tend to linger on the palate, making this a bit stubborn on the breath after it’s done, but it’s not a deal-breaker on this stick.  This is a solid cigar that would be a great stick with coffee, bourbon, whiskey, or beer.  Will definitely see this one again.

Padron Anniversary Series

One of the things I like most about the culture around cigar smoking is that there’s such a variety to enjoy, and that there’s so many nuances to enjoy it that can affect the final smoke.  The first time I had Padron Anniversary Series, was tickled most by the fact that this was my very first cigar with a serial number.   I’ve since had the honor of smoking other Anniversary Series and having the opportunity to use a variety of cutters to explore other ways the flavors draw through the cigar. But this first time, I relished that this was a beautiful box-pressed cigar (and I have come to realize that I prefer a classic box pressed stick) with an elegant but simple design to the cigar ring.

As this was gifted to me, I can’t tell you about the establishment that sold it, but I can tell you that the other times I’ve smoked this label it has been consistently great.  For this go, I had a glass of vodka (Tito’s is usually my house brand) on the rocks and I enjoyed this on the patio of my apartment.

Generally, I think smoking within the scope of abodes is just a more natural setting to enjoy a cigar.  I don’t mean within the house, but having a stick with a group of friends or on my own within the security of someplace private just seems to have a better chance of actually relaxing me.  And that’s part of what having a cigar is about– relishing that moment, not rushing it. Enjoying and savoring the time it takes to smoke a cigar.   While I obviously don’t mind having my sticks within the lounge scene,  I feel that having a moment privately just makes the whole experience better.

The cigar is great with a straight cut or a v-cut. I haven’t tried it with a punch,  but I suspect it’ll still be great.  It’s got a mellow leathery smell before it’s lit, and after it’s lit, there’s notes of coffee and notes of vanilla.    At the mid-point, the vanilla turned more cocoa, and the finish of the cigar had a nice hint of pepper and nuttiness to it.   In fact, I’d say that the complexities of this cigar are hard to describe, as the strength of the varied flavors changes as the cigar is smoked.  The leathery aroma was prevalent more at the beginning and the end, but diminished in the middle of the stick.   To me, the cocoa notes only showed up in the middle.  The coffee was throughout the stick, but stronger at the end and the beginning. The tiny hint of vanilla only seemed to be at the beginning, but I feel like that was mostly in the smoke from the cigar’s wrapper. The draw was smooth, and allowed for the creation of  a nice foot on the cigar.   This is a cigar I have enjoyed several times and look forward to enjoying several more times.

Light of Ybor at and by King Corona Cigars

This past Sunday, my friends and I opted to take our Cigar Sunday to the shelter of King Corona Cigars in Ybor.  As it is officially Hurricane Season, the Sunshine state has a penchant to have a thunder storm at least once a day, making smoking on a patio a risky affair.    This time around, King Corona was fully operational and complete with power for beverages and the lounge televisions showing a variety of sports shows and news.  Now I feel like I can give this cafe/lounge some justice that it has rightly deserved as a gem within Tampa for those that enjoy a good place to smoke a cigar.  This view is from the middle of the lounge area.  What sets King Corona apart from other places is that it is also a cafe.  The food is prepared in an area separate from the lounge and is really very delicious.  Another reason to try this establishment.

This time, I opted to try a cigar I hadn’t tried before.  I browsed quite a bit because the humidor has such goodies in it, but I felt that it was high time for me to try one of King Corona’s own, the Light Of Ybor.    I had this with a glass of house merlot and a cup of water.

Unwrapping this from it’s white tissue felt like unwrapping a gift.  The wrapper of this cigar is a tawny Ecuador leaf and surrounding an aromatic Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers.  The aroma of the unlit cigar had hints of vanilla, but smelled mostly of leather and coffee.    After it was lit, this had a similar creaminess to the H. Upmann, but not as heavy on the draw.  It also smoked as a coffee/leather combo with only a hint of sweetness to it.

The draw of the cigar is extremely easy, and made for developing a nice foot on the end.   While the leathery coffee smoke got heavier at the middle, it toned down at the end.  The end of this stick was more of a light vanilla with coffee and actually a refreshing way to round out the cigar.   I would recommend smoking this with a coffee, a black tea, whiskey, and it was tasty with my wine, too.   I would even go so far as to recommend this as an excellent beginner cigar for someone who wants to start down the path of the leaf.

H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez

While I do prefer to visit proper tobacconist shops or cigar lounges,  I’m not opposed to visiting the humidors of retail establishments.  While wandering in my local Total Wine, I did step into the humidor there to peruse for cigars that looked interesting.  And boy, does this look interesting. The light blue label was quite eye-catching, so I picked up this pretty H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez and sniffed it.  Even through the cellophane, this cigar smelled creamy.  Yes, creamy.  Something about aroma coupled with the well designed pastel cigar ring appealed to my curiosity so it came home with me.

It sat in my sheltered humidor until a fine day came around for Cigar Thursday-this is not an official event, but a day in which a few of my close friends will gather together for what amounts to a Pre-Friday evening of relaxing from what stresses of the week have brought.  It’s a nice way to round out the week, usually involving a household patio and some method of fire pit.  This particular Thursday smoke involved another cigar as well, but the highlight of the evening was the H. Upmann.  I had a tasty Omission Lager (I am a celiac, so forgive my choice of beer-like beverages. You’ll notice more of a pattern of wine and liquor than beer… but my weird dietary restriction has no bearing on my taste on cigars!) as I decompressed and laughed with my friends.

Lighting up the H. Upmann and taking that first draw was delightful.  This cigar has a sweetness to it that isn’t cloying and doesn’t give a weird coating to the tongue. It smokes cleanly and simply, with an even draw through the entirety of the cigar.  The creaminess I smelled while in the store was coupled now with a light coffee aroma and tasted rather nutty at the beginning of the stick.   This cigar would certainly pair well with coffee, whiskey, or rum, and it was quite tasty with a light beer.  At the mid-point of the cigar, the coffee-ness was more pronounced, and this nutty, coffee flavor with hints of vanilla lasted to the end of the cigar.   While not as peppery as I typically enjoy, this was a lovely cigar for a relaxing evening with friends and was not a heavy smoke at all.  This is a great lighter-body cigar for an evening of light frivolity.

Asylum 13 at King Corona

It was an odd rainy day that kept the power flickering in Ybor City, one of Tampa’s historic districts.  I’d met a friend for lunch at Hamburger Mary’s Pub, and we wandered down to King Corona Cigars after. King Corona is a Tampa icon– it’s directly on the ‘main strip’ of Ybor, and I would recommend them as a stopping point for any cigar aficionado.  The building is ancient and decorated as such, but the staff at King Corona are passionate about their work– both for their humidor and on the cafe side.

In other trips, I have savored their Cuban coffee with my selection of stick, but this go around, a power outage had struck King Corona   The stalwart staff of the humidor and cafe weren’t daunted by a lack of electricity, they just asked for cash only and explained that the espresso and cappuccino machines were down.  In answer to my, “Y’all still have wine, right?” was a glass of house Merlot, generously poured and a glass of water with what ice cubes they had left.

Ya'all got wine, right?

I’ve been to King Corona with enough frequency that the humidor associates usually have no trouble recommending a cigar to me.  And I can certainly say that while they may not have the largest or most diverse humidor in the Tampa area, I have never had a disappointing cigar selected for me. But the odd weather put me in the mood to have one of the cigars I consider one of my staples, an Asylum 13.


The Asylum line in general is quite good, but the 13 has that really simple but eye catching ring and the perfect amount of pepperiness that I love so much.  On a strangely cool rainy day, the Asylum smoked like an old friend. The draw is smooth and easy, and the cigar starts with a dark brew coffee aroma and ends with that gorgeous dark pepper finish that I love so much. My friend and I sat and people watched as we savored our cigars and our beverages, with the King Corona staff attentive and mindful of our drinks and bringing us another cigar ashtray, even as they were working on getting the power restored. A fine way to spend a Sunday.