I finally made a decision after reaching out to my cigar guru, Mike who is unquestionably my most reliable source of information on the exhaustive topic of cigars.
He replied to my inquiry with a list of a dozen plus cigars that he recommended based on my budget (modest) and have a smoking time lasting up to an hour; as I wanted no length exceeding Happy Hour.
I looked at each and every cigar he recommended (except the Ashtons*) searching for what I perceived to be the best value proposition. Ideally I would have liked to have sampled each and every cigar before making my choice but I had to trust Mike and decide based upon him both narrowing the playing field for me and also taking into account factors like price and availability,
I chose the Oliva Serie V Melanio Robusto because it was exactly that – the best value proposition – which I will explain further in a moment.
From everything I read, I think I would have preferred the La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Robusto but it turned out that they were so highly desired that all shapes and sizes were either sold out, unavailable or on back order.
I also thought seriously about the Padron Series 3000 – a 5.5″ X 52 Maduro for $172/box of 26 (a very reasonable $6.62/stick) but, as I said, the Oliva Serie V Melanio Robusto turned out to be a better value proposition.
Please keep in mind that all of these cigars recommended by Mike were all rated across the board by several sites about the same: 4.5/5.0.
I also liked what I read about the Liga Privada No 9 which Mike called ‘very strong but very nice!’ But at $15/stick seemed like a pricey gamble.
I like powerful cigars which is why I ultimately ruled out Arturo Fuente’s ‘Short Story’ and ‘Work of Art.’ I began my cigar smoking career many years ago with the Fuente’s ‘Hemingway Classic’, a beautiful, well burning cigar with a nice even flavor. However I’ve been passing them by these many years because beauty doesn’t often translate into complexity. And the Hemingway Line is just too soft for my tastes.
I ruled out the CAO Flathead V554 Camshaft – although it spec’d well – because I am suspicious of anything that seems to need an additional theme beyond great smoke, strong cigar to sell itself. And a classic car/motorcycle motif themed cigar seemed almost like an oxymoron (and I detest the genre of classic car people on mere principle anyway). The unique shape (square?) and ‘unique flavor’ (huh?) descriptors baffled me but it was the car/motorcycle theme that was the true deal killer. (Although the description of ‘3 different vintage tobaccos all covered by a dark premium Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper give this cigar a smooth yet spicy touch’ made it sound highly inviting.)
The Davidoff’s were too pricey – which Mike forewarned me as being ‘costly’ – and I’ve always had this feeling from the numerous reviews I’ve read about them in the past is that they sell mostly based on snob appeal. I can’t remember of ever having read a review that substantiates they deliver the value given their price. (Give me a good Padron 1964 Anniversary Series any day – there the price consistently matches the performance.)
BTW – All my pricing came from two reputable sources: Thompson Cigars and JR Cigars; both of which are now big, online retailers. I must admit to being prejudiced towards JR’s because I did a lot of business with them over the years at their retail store on L St. NW in Washington, DC, a few blocks walk from my apartment in Dupont Circle.
But I bought from JR’s because they offered up a deal on the Oliva Serie V Melanio Robusto that I couldn’t refuse. Buy a box of 10 for $82.85 and get another 10 assorted Oliva & Nub Cigars, valued at $69.95, absolutely free. That is one of the specials they are running for the month of June.
So I bought two, 10 count boxes of the robustos and got 40 cigars in all for just $172.00 including shipping. That’s an average of $4.30 per stick.
Okay, that sounds like a great price right, but what about the value proposition?
The Oliva Serie V Melanio Robusto is a 5″ X 52 cigar – full strength – binder and filler from Nicaragua with an Ecuador Sumatra wrapper. It has 899 – 4.5/5.0 – reviews and at $8.30/stick seems like a reasonable price to pay for a quality smoke from Nicaragua – and for some reason I favor cigars from Nicaragua; maybe because they are typically on the strong side.
Now what about these assorted Oliva & Nub Cigars? I don’t know about the assorted part except a search on the website showed the Olivia ‘Nub’ to be 4 X 60/64; and all of them were rated 4.5/5.0.
In my somewhat recent post, ‘Cigars’, I mentioned that I envisioned having to share my cigars with both friend and foe. So I figure whichever of the ‘assorted’ bunch of the freebies that turned out to be duds would in turn be smilingly distributed to the category of wedding guest deemed, foe.
*I smoked three or four bad Ashtons in a row back in 2003-05 so I am naturally prejudiced against this brand for all eternity. If they want to double refund my money and beg my forgiveness only then will I consent to purchase another one of their cigars.
PS – I am positively screaming with delight as I just remembered the other quaint aspect to Robert Smith’s (The Cure) interview with Rolling Stone some years ago. He was queried as to whether he had pimples as an adolescent. His reply was, ‘No. All my spots were on the inside.’