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Dupont X·tend

When engaging in any hobby it is necessary to be equipped with the required accoutrements. Golfers must bring clubs, tennis players must have a racquet, and cigar smokers must have a lighter. While a Bic would get the job done it lacks the elegance and precision that a fine hand rolled cigar deserves. S.T. Dupont of Paris has been perfecting man’s discovery of fire since 1941 through their line of luxury lighters. Bargain shoppers should look elsewhere as Dupont’s most economical model is priced at over $100, and their most expensive sells for $85,000. Nonetheless, buyers accepting of the high price point will be rewarded with a cleverly engineered, precisely manufactured, and stylish showpiece that looks at home in the pocket of even the most formal piqué waistcoat. The Dupont X·tend is no exception.

The X·tend feels like an extension of the hand thanks to the gently contoured body with rounded edges. Depressing the large button on the side simultaneously opens two crescent-shaped doors covering the nozzle, starts the flow of butane, and ignites the fuel with a piezoelectric ignition. The action is smooth and positive. Of course, a tight blade of blue flame is emitted every time the button is pressed. An inconspicuous fuel window in the bottom of the lighter lets the owner see when a refill is required. Lighting even the largest ring gauge cigars is a breeze with the X·tend; the flame is powerful enough for a fast light but has the precision required for touching up the burn on a delicate wrapper leaf. If you appreciate precision instruments and want an elegant lighter look no further than the S.T. Dupont X·tend.

I would like to thank a certain cigar rep for the ridiculously absurd (practically giveaway) discount. 😉

No, this isn’t another Cuban Montecristo; this is a domestic cigar distributed by Altadis that contains tobacco from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Peru, and Mexico. The No. 3 is a corona with large unsightly veins running through the blotchy wrapper. The bouquet of the unlit tobacco is slightly woody but fairly bland. After lighting, the cigar is bitter and papery from the first draw and shows no signs of improvement throughout the entire 5 1/2 inches. The smoke given off by the Montecristo Platinum is thin, astringent, and unpleasant. Shortly after the half way point the cigar becomes soft and nearly collapses. Almost unsmokable and not recommended.

-72 points

El Sublimado

It isn’t every day that a long out of production cigar hearkening back from the boom years of the ‘90’s falls into your lap. The Texas Cigar Brothers company of Bedford, Texas recently stumbled upon a long forgotten stock of El Sublimado and El Incomparable cigars in the warehouse of a Honduran cigar factory and is making them available on a limited basis. The El Sublimado brand launched in 1993 and is unique because the tobacco used to make the cigar was cured in rooms with 50 years old Noces d’Or Cognac.

This cigar does not possess an overpowering aroma of cognac; the spirit’s scent on the wrapper is unmistakably present but is well balanced by the natural aroma of tobacco. The prelight aroma is a subtle mix of vanilla, toffee, spice, cedar, and tobacco. Deftly rolled with a beautifully uniform look and feel, it is clear that the El Sublimado was manufactured with care. The Connecticut seed wrapper remains rich in appearance and sill exudes a modest amount of oil.

Unlike the majority of infused cigars, the El Sublimado’s flavors are nuanced and delicate. The flavor of the Cognac is even less pronounced while smoking than it was in the aroma of the unlit wrapper. It remains rich and full of undertones but strikes a refreshing balance with the other flavors one would expect to find in non-infused tobacco. The smoke tastes of nuts, vanilla, and spice with a lingering finish of cedar. The 50 ring gauge robusto burned very evenly with a draw offering modestly firm resistance.

At around $17 per cigar, the El Sublimado is not inexpensive; however, it is very unique and worthy of purchase due to the unusual flavor combination. Lovers of an elegant cigar brimming with vivid flavors and a mellow texture should consider purchasing a package of five while they last. I would like to thank Texas Cigar Brothers for submitting this cigar for review. Additional information on these cigars can be found at http://www.texascigarbrothers.com/.

– 90 points

This red from from Southern Rhône is made from equal parts Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne and Bourboulenc. It has a powerful nose of black currant, lavender, raspberry, licorice, and spice that opens considerably after decanting. Tasting shows ripe flavors of deep currant, ginger, peach, and pear. The Les Gallimardes has exceptional balance with a long, buttery floral finish. It has a pronounced acidity that plays well with the firm tannic structure. This is one of the best values of Rhône on the market. Drink now or cellar.

-92 points

Germany’s noble white grape variety, Riesling, is a versatile performer capable of producing lusciously sweet wines as well as distinguished dry wines. Given that Riesling produces a wine high in acidity, German Rieslings are often balanced with a dusting of natural sweetness. In the warmer climate of Alsace there is enough ripeness to offset the acidity, allowing the wine to have balance even when completely dry. Even very light German Rieslings have good aging potential because of this pronounced acidity. After many years their tart citric fruit evolves into a spellbinding pungency reminiscent of the heady fumes of gasoline.

The warm, dry weather at harvest gave the 2009 vintage exceptional balance of fruit and minerality. Though the yields are down, this vintage is on par with the exceptional offerings from 2001 and 2005 – and even perhaps older notable vintages 1953 and 1969.

2009 Schloss Lieser Niederberg Helden Riesling –
 
This ’09 is very fresh with a lively acidity. It has a profuse bouquet of graphite with notes of cherry and apple on the palate. The substantial finish smacks of cream and is lightly sweet. This is a prime candidate for aging as it is quite concentrated – almost brash.
 
-92 points
 
2009 Selbach-Oster Riesling Qualitätswein Mosel –
 
This is another 2009 Riesling with an intense aroma of minerals. It has elegant and refined notes of peach and baked apricot with hints of citrus. The finish is also creamy but shows a moderate amount of spice. A great buy at $25.
 
-93 points

Aging Wine

The time-honored tradition of aging wine is perhaps the most misunderstood facet of the hobby. How should a wine be stored for aging purposes, and what happens to wine as it ages?

The process of aging wine is far more involved than tossing a bottle or two in the kitchen cupboard and forgetting about it for a few years. Bottles must be stored under optimal conditions to control the variables that contribute to aging for the best, most predictable results. Generally speaking, bottles must be stored on their side in low light conditions. Horizontal storage helps maintain a near perfect bottle seal since the wine remains in direct contact with the cork, keeping it tightly expanded. The atmosphere should be 55 degrees farenheit and between 60 – 80 percent relative humidity. Higher temperatures speed up the aging process and can cause bottles to leak. A humid environment keeps the cork from crumbling in the bottle. Wine will evaporate from the bottle even under perfect storage conditions; ullage levels will increase at a rate of up to half an inch per decade of cellar time.

Not all wines make good candidates for aging; low quality wines will generally not improve with time. Inexpensive wines are generally blended in a fruit-forward manner that are to be enjoyed immediately. As wine ages, phenolic compounds form sediment in the bottle. This is why a harshly tannic young wine (several Cabernets come to mind) will become more balanced and gentle on the palate with time. The color will slowly fade, and notes of fruit will become less prominent. Complex floral, spicy, earthy, or mineralic tertiary notes and aromas will develop or gain definition. Exactly what should you age? I look for a concentrated wine with a strong structure that is giving me a glimpse of something special. It may be fairly inexpressive and closed that moment, but it is of good lineage and has some wonderfully subtle notes that could be better developed with time. Cellar some wine and watch it slowly unfurl its wonderful secrets.

This classic Cuban torpedo is arguably the gold standard of cigars. At 6 1/8 inches long with a 52 ring gauge this cigar feels sizable in the hand; however, the tapered head guides the smoke onto the palate in a nice concentrated stream. The milk cholocate-hued wrapper is smooth and rolled to perfection.

Even with seven years of box age, the Montecristo No. 2 remains a complex powerhouse. This cigar is brimming with notes of cedar, dark chocolate,  roasted coffee, and cinammon with an earthy, yet spicy finish. It’s a very rich and full bodied cigar but is balanced with a mellow and supple texture. This Montecristo No. 2 easily ranks among the best cigars I have had.

-96 points