Hoyo De Monterrey – Excalibur

February 7, 2009 ·

There is something magical about smoking a cigar on a crisp evening in SC. During the fall and early winter the night skies here are a dark indigo – never black- and the moon is always abnormally close filling more than its share of the sky. It has been a long week at work and a most unexpectedly busy Friday. These are the days that are perfect for an evening smoke. Like always I am joined in my backyard by Marley, our beastly Pyrenees and a shelter mutt we have been “fostering” for over a year, appropriately named Smokey.

While visiting family for Christmas, I made time to hit a few cigar shops in the Hickory area of NC. While there I purchased several choice sticks that I will share later, but tonight is about an old classic: Hoyo de Monterrey’s Excalibur. Excalibur and its various sequels were highly praised during the cigar boom of the nineties. I always avoided them because I try to avoid listening to experts in cigar world. I have always been of the opinion that people’s tastes in cigars are far too varied to have experts that score and criticize cigars. I prefer to enjoy each cigar and the unique qualities that they bring instead of questing after the universally perfect cigar. There is no such thing.

Enough about my theories, let’s talk about the Excalibur. My choice is a 6.5 inch stick with about a 46 gauge ring and a natural wrapper. I normally prefer a little thicker stick, but this one was in my budget that day. I think I paid $4-$5 for this one. One of the most apparent qualities of this cigar is how tightly it is wrapped. Upon pulling it from its sleeve, I noticed its weight and firm construction. I have a fairly heavy draw, so these attributes work for me. Even so, I did have to relight it twice after getting lazy on the draw. Hoyo de Monterrey – Excalibur Hoyo de Monterrey – Excalibur The flavor of the cigar seems pretty standard to me for a decent medium body cigar. Often on a brisk night like tonight I would prefer a stronger peppier stick.

I do think that cigars are always better when paired with liquor. For the Excalibur, I would suggest a mid-grade bourbon like Southern Comfort. The way SoCo’s smooth lingering warmth coats the throat would make this cigar seem a bit sweet. Tonight I have a glass of Bacardi Gold over rocks with a little water. Overall I would say this is a good cigar for those looking to get a taste for an everyday handmade cigar. The only time I would choose to smoke this guy again would be indoors where the traditional aroma of the cigar would be appreciated. Normally when I am looking for a good backyard smoke, I like a strong favor that warms my chest.

UPDATE: After relighting my Excalibur for the fifth time I decided to commit what I consider to be a sin of smoking: loosening the wrap by rolling it between my thumb and forefinger. After loosening up the cap and top inch of the stick, the cigar changed dramatically. The favor filled out and I experienced a favor that was made whole by the full draws creating a full mild favor. The last ten minutes of draws from the loosened cigar changed my mind and I fully expect to enjoy an Excalibur again….with rum. Thanks Sr. Gener.

JR Ultimate – Bin 50 6.00X54

May 26, 2009

When my interest was first sparked in cigars I found out that an a older gentleman in my youth group was an avid smoker of handmade cigars. While quizzing him one night about his favorite smokes, he mentioned the JR’s cigar catalog and store that spread along NC interstates like Cracker Barrels.  The next day I found their website and requested a catalog.  It came in the mail weeks later and I sat down to get my fill of cigar knowledge.  After reading through only few pages I began to realize that these guys had a catalog of silly copy that read like an old Sportsman Friend catalog, yet their selection of cigars was amazing.  They carried a full spectrum of cigars – from Swisher Sweets to Cohibas.  Now I realize that the period that I got into cigars was just after the crash of the cigar boom of the ninties(I’m often a bit behind on trends).  The reason my friend recommended JR was their selection of knock off cigars, the  ”designer imposters” of the cigar world.  I imagined each cellophane wrapped bundle of cigars reading, “If you like Cohiba No. 1, then you’ll love JR’s Cohibos Numero Uno”.  Over the last ten years or so, JR has become a much more respectable catalog  with many exclusive selections.

I tried a few that my friend gave me and he was right.  They were infact great cigars at great prices.  Although, if I were looking for a cheap smoke I would stick with Sweets or Black ‘n Milds.  I did ultimately make JR cigars one of my favorite places to order smokes from.

In the last several years, JR has used their connections to create several lines of privately labeled premium cigars that they promise will compare or exeed any ultra premium cigar available.

While traveling a college friend last week in NC, I had the opportunity to stop by a JR store and grab a JR Ultimate to see if their claim was true.  I must preface my evaluation of their statement with this: While I have smoke more fine cigars in my short life than most men will ever imagine, I still consider my experience to be quite slight in comparison to many enthusiasts.  Mostly due to the frequency that I smoke only being once every 4-6weeks. While some say that is a shame, I know that it is the reason I can afford pricier cigars.

As I approached the store I noticed that JR’s retail presence was not limited to cigars, but to all sorts of paraphanelia including collectable dolls, discount cigarettes, cowboy boots, motorcycle wear and various other redneck luxuries,  I was shocked to see that my respectable JR cigar shop was hidden inside of a Big Lots-ish outlet….to be continued.


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