Charter Oak Review

Charter Oak Review


First a little introduction: My name is Peter and I’ve been smoking cigars 19 years. I am a native of NY and as such I am sarcastic and acerbic. If you don’t agree with me then say so and stand by your convictions when challenged. If not, then shut up and go away. I tend to be pretty picky about what cigars I like and have yet to find a reviewer whose pallet is similar to my own. As such I don’t really read a reviews tasting notes. I go by the overall score. Keep that in mind when reading my thoughts on cigars. I might hate it but I’m not you. Try it for yourself.

Now here is a little of my approach to judging cigars. The nature of a handmade product is that there will be deviation from the standard. With a single cigar you don’t know if you’re smoking the deviation or the standard. So in order to have an informed opinion at least three samples need to be smoked. That said first impression are important. The cost of cigars is ever increasing and the consumer has a wide array of choices. If that first smoke isn’t any good I’m probably not going to give it another try.

For that reason, I try to take care to properly store my cigars before smoking and forming an opinion. This doesn’t just mean keeping them properly humidified and at the right temperature. It also means letting cigars I have had shipped to me sit in my humidor for a week prior to smoking. As well if I pick up something at my local shop that is a few days off of the truck I’m going to let it rest for a week. Now I do cheat from time to time on those releases I’ve been dying to try. In these cases, I smoke the first one as soon as I can get it onto my grubby little hands but don’t formulate a solid opinion. I wait until after resting and then smoking the others I’ve bought to do that.

In part one of my FIRST IMPRESSIONS I’ll be giving you my thoughts on three new releases from Nick Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Company. The Charter Oak Connecticut Broadleaf, the Charter Oak U.S. Connecticut Shade and the Tabernacle. Foundation Cigars Charter Oak Broadleaf

First up is the Charter Oak Connecticut Broadleaf in the 4 ½ x 50 Rothschild vitola.

Blend information

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf

Binder: Undisclosed

Filler: Undisclosed

Factory: Undisclosed

Now for my first impressions The cigar starts gritty and earthy. At less than an inch in notes of cedar and unrefined sugar developed. It’s smoking quickly but staying cool The retrohale is very peppery and jalapeno like Ending of the 1/3 and the strength & body are dialing back back from Medium+ to Medium – The retrohale has deeply mellowed to gentle earth and oakiness At the halfway point and there are notes of oak, earth, and a slightly bitterness The burn rate slowed significantly at the halfway point Entering the 2/3 with lots of gentle bitterness The whole of the 2/3 is oak and bitterness. It needs a sweet component to balance it out The retrohale has a generic woodiness and the spice has all but gone away The 3/3 is much of the same but less distinct. very boring This is a solid value prices smoke that is worth a revisit for a full review

Next I smoked the Charter Oak Connecticut Shade in the 4 ½ x 50 Rothschild vitola.

Foundation Cigars Charter Oak CT ShadeBlend information

Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut Shade Grown

Binder: Undisclosed

Filler: Undisclosed

Factory: Undisclosed

It starts with notes of hay, coffee and cream, lots of cream The retrohale has the same hay with some sweetness, cream and pepper spice Bottom of the first inch, very nice cinnamon finish on the pallet Bottom of the 1/3 generic wood, retrohale is nice and sweet Surprisingly this US CT is smoking slower than the Broadleaf.

At the halfway point and it’s all about the retrohale, crème brulée baby Entering 3/3 and the flavors have mellowed out to light sweet cream with a touch of bitterness on finish The retrohale is short and sweet and oak notes

This is a very impressive little smoke. I am very surprised at how creamy it was considering it US CT wrapper and not the sweeter Ecuadorian variety This as a cigar to smoke again


Finally, I smoked the Tabernacle in the 7 x 40 Lancero vitola. Foundation Cigars Tabernacle

Blend Information

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf

Binder: Mexican San Andres

Filler: Honduran, Nicaraguan

Factory: Tabacalera Fernandez, Nicaragua

Start out rich and with notes of raisin, chili spice and that broadleaf tobacco sweetness. Early on I got a weird but not unpleasant French fries note. The retrohale is tons of cocoa Bottom of 1/3 with lots of sweetness and earth. The retrohale tastes of cinnamon graham cracker The hallway point and it pretty much the same as the start and it is so good Entering final third and still the same. But damn it is good Last inch and there are earthy touches of sweetness. This Tabernacle Lancero really surprised me. I am not Lancero goy. But I really enjoyed this one.

“What’s Your Best Cigar?”

“What’s Your Best Cigar?”

Ask any B&M cigar store owner how many times someone’s asked the question “What’s your best cigar?” and I bet you’ll hear a wide variety of answers that boil down to this: A LOT.  They’d probably be able to throw in some other subjective adjectives that can be substituted for best like favorite, strongest, or mildest that are commonly asked as well.  I witnessed this very exchange happen last week and it got me to thinking.  I know, that’s probably not a good thing, but oh well…

As a cigar blogger (albeit not a regular one lately), I take my cigar smoking seriously.  I try to thoroughly evaluate any cigar I smoke so that I can properly transcribe my evaluations and observations to you my readers.  I give you my opinion on cigars based on the experiences I’ve had with the cigars I’m reviewing.  And the truth of the matter is that my opinion is just that, an opinion.  I try to remain as objective as possible and tell you about objective characteristics like burn, construction, wrapper appearance and the like.

But, does it taste good?  What is the aroma like?  Is this the best cigar I’ve had or is it just so-so?  I can answer those questions for myself and describe them to you, but can’t answer for you.  I like full-bodied cigars.  You might not.  I think that thinner ring gauges hold more flavor.  You might disagree.  I might like woody flavors whereas you like more spice.

So, if you ask me what my best cigar is, I’m going to give you my opinion.  If you ask me what my favorite cigar is, you’ll get my favorite answer for that day/week/month; however long my current favorite remains my favorite.  And, if you tell me what you like, I can guide you to things I think you might enjoy based on my experience and knowledge.

But, if you’re looking for the best cigar, you’re going to have to find that one for yourself.

If you already know, tell me what your best cigar is and why…  Maybe it’ll help others find theirs.

How To Choose Your Cigar

How To Choose Your Cigar

Choosing your cigar carefully is important for pleasurable cigar smoking experience. 

There’s a cigar and there’s a cigar. There are excellent handcrafted cigars and there are cheap garbage imitations out there. Before you try and learn the proper way on how to smoke a cigar, it would be helpful to have some basic ideas on how to choose a good cigar.

With cigars, you get what you pay for. Most of the convenience store cigars that are available are cheap imitations – machine-made and filled with shredded tobacco leaves. I wouldn’t recommend buying any of these to anyone, they taste so awful you’d never forgive me for the rest of your cigar-smoking days. If price is an issue with you (and it better be, it’s easy to blow $100 on a superior cigar), try to find the samplers and clearance sales from reputable cigar houses online. You’d be amazed at how affordable the good cigars are in the range of $2 to $7. With $15, you will most certainly be able to find an excellent cigar for your first smoke.

The best cigars are handcrafted works of art. Most of the famous cigar-makers are based in countries like Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and of course, Cuba.

Although in recent years, many cigar products coming from these countries are machine-rolled, a lot of reputable houses and families still proudly produce hand-rolled superbly-blended cigars. To many of them, producing a good cigar is a matter of family pride, tradition, and honor. A guide on how to smoke a cigar will not be complete without a rudimentary working knowledge of the cigars coming from these countries.

As you begin your journey into the wonderful world of cigars, it is sound idea to befriend and work with a reputable tobacconist in your city. Congenial and always eager to welcome new enthusiasts, your tobacconist can share with you expert advice and recommendations (on how to smoke a cigar and how to choose your cigar) and will help you steer clear of low-quality stuff.

We have noted in an earlier post that beginners are best off to begin your cigar-smoking experience with mild cigars. Some people who are unlucky to smoke an ill-chosen cigar the first time around, will find the episode unpleasant and will probably stay away from cigars forever. This is unfortunate since they are poised to embark on an adventure of discovery and pleasure, but for that ill-chosen first cigar. So you want to learn how to smoke a cigar? Choose your first cigar with care.
Cigars come in different sizes and yes, a cigar’s name is indicative of its size. Again cigars are measured by inches in length and ring gauge (1/64th of an inch) in diameter. Remember, the longer and bigger the ring gauge of a cigar, the stronger and full-bodied it probably is. This is because the maker has more room to introduce more and different leaves into the cigar to enhance its taste and texture.
The size of a cigar is written LXRG or length (in inches) x ring gauge. Thus the size of a Churchill is written as 7×50 or 7″ long by 50/64th of an inch thick. Below are the names of cigars that indicate dimensions:
    • Presidente (Longer and thick)
    • Churchill (long and thick)
    • Toro (shorter and thick)
    • Robosto (short and thick)
    • Rothchild (shorter and medium width)
    • Corona(medium length and width)
    • Lonsdale (long and thin)
    • Panatela (long and thinner)
    • Torpedo (long and thick with the cap coming to a point)
    • Piramide (long and medium width and gets narrow in the head and ends with a small round cap)
    • Triangulo (similar to the Piramide but the cap is pointed)Belicoso (similar to the Torpedo but shorter)
    • Perfecto (varies in length and width but both sides of the cigar are closed)
    • Diadema (a Perfecto that is at least 8” long)
  • Culebra (three panatelas twisted around each other and must be separated before smoking).

The Churchill by the way, is in fact named after former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who in his days, was often seen to smoke this type of cigar. The torpedo (which is thick in the middle and tapers off at both ends) and the piramide (which is thick in one end and tapers of in the other) are the types frequently seen in popular illustrations and portrayals of cigar smokers.

In my very first post on how to smoke a cigar, we have discussed that the most common way to determine a cigar’s strength is by looking at the wrapper. This is the outermost cigar leaf wrapping the filler and the binder and the darker the wrapper is, the stronger the cigar will be.

    • Double Claro – (also called Candela or American Market Select)- has a light green to greenish brown color and very mild-flavored.
    • Claro – has a light tan wrapper and a smooth, mild flavor. Made mostly from shade-grown tobacco leaves, an example of which is the Connecticut Shade wrappers, which are said to be among the finest in the world.
    • Natural (also called English Market Select)- light brown to brown. And has fuller bodied flavor than the Claro.
    • Colorado – reddish dark brown, with a robust, rich flavor. Colorado Maduro – a dark brown wrapper with a rich, aromatic flavor.
    • Maduro – is very dark brown, and usually has a strong, sweet flavor. More texture and veins than other wrappers
  • Oscuro – the darkest maduro wrapper, oscuro is almost black and is stronger than the lighter maduro wrappers
If you are buying the cigar personally from a cigar store, try to examine your cigar of choice before making a purchase. Here, the tobacconist can help you make your choice and will allow you to manually examine the cigar. Try to give the cigar a little squeeze, it must be firm but there should be little give. Too hard and unyielding, the cigar is probably plugged, too densely rolled and will be difficult to smoke. Most reputable tobacconists and cigar houses by the way, will gladly replace a plugged cigar. Also, try to feel for very soft and too-yielding spots. These generally will cause the cigar to burn unevenly.Doing it properly will definitely add to the pleasure you’re going to get from the experience.
10 Questions From a Wannabe Cigar Smoker

10 Questions From a Wannabe Cigar Smoker

My name is Chris. As of now I have not ever smoked a cigar, well, at least not while sober. Growing up I have always been surrounded by cigar smokers so there is a comforting appeal to the smell. It has always fascinated me but I never took the opportunity, not even when my daughter was born which would have been the traditional thing to do, and now feel in my mid-thirties I think it’s about time I should give it a try.

Thankfully through the magic of the internets I have access to an expert now so I can ask Cigar Choice a bunch of questions I have about cigars and cigar smoking 🙂

Chris: Cigar smoking doesn’t seem to have the negative connotation cigarette smoking has, why do you think that is?

Cigar Choice: The only purpose of a cigarette is to deliver nicotine. Cigarette smoking is an addictive habit. Having quite five years ago I can attest to their addictive power first hand. Cigars aren’t typically smoked for that reason. They are used as a way to celebrate a special occasion or to relax after a long day. Your typical cigar smoker usually smokes less than five cigars a week and doesn’t have the same physical addiction to cigars as a cigarette smoker does to cigarettes. I fear much of that is going to change soon though as the cigar industry is coming under increasing attack.

Chris: How would you start with cigars? Buy a selection or would you go for a particular cigar?

Cigar Choice: Try and find a good local shop where you can ask some advice and also check out some of the great cigar websites out there for ideas on what to try. I’d definitely buy a selection, and take some notes on what you like and dislike. If you choose to order online most places offer samplers.

Chris: Is it an acquired taste? something you need to practice?

Cigar Choice: Cigars vary in flavor profile and strength so much I believe certain cigars are an acquired taste. Your tastes will change over time, but I’ve liked cigars since the first one I tried. I started out with some milder cigars and now smoke some stuff that are so strong they would have left me green five years ago.

Chris: How do you smoke a cigar? Light it and start sucking on it?

Cigar Choice: Cutting a cigar is the first step. Typically you want to take no more than 1/8 inch off the cap. Matches are the more traditional route, but I prefer using a butane torch lighter. Don’t get the flame too close to the foot, as this will burn the cigar, and your aim is to just lightly toast it. Once the foot is warmed, you want to start lightly puffing on it and rotating it to get a nice even burn. When the cigar is lit you’ll want to go slow. The rule of thumb is take a puff or two about once a minute, as this keeps the cigar from getting too hot and can help subtle flavors become more noticeable.

Chris: Inhale/don’t inhale? People I talk to say that you shouldn’t, but most of them do anyway?

Cigar Choice: I strongly recommend not inhaling a cigar if you can help it. Inhaling too much will quickly turn you a lovely shade of green. I end up inhaling some especially if I’m trying to exhale the smoke through my nose. Your nose does a better job picking out nuances than just your tongue. I’m still trying to get the hang of this myself.

Chris: Do you get what you pay for, or is it like wine where price isn’t always a great measure of quality?

Cigar Choice: Cigars are exactly like wine in that respect. By looking out for small unknown brands I’ve found $4 cigars that I think are much higher quality than some $10 cigars. Many of those $10 are that price because too many people think price equals quality or the company has spent a large amount of money marketing it.

Chris: What’s the deal with Cuban cigars?

Cigar Choice: Cuban cigars do have a unique flavor you’ll only find in a Cuban cigar. This is often referred to as the Cuban “Twang” and I can recognize it when I smoke one but I can’t describe it. The embargo definitely added to the mystique. Some are better than what you can get in the States and some are worse, most of that comes down to personal preference. Though in my opinion you haven’t had a cigar until you’ve had a Cuban Partagas Serie D No. 4 that’s been aged for a few years.

Chris: There seem to be lots of accessories and fancy gizmos, necessary? Do they add to enjoyment?

Cigar Choice: Depends on your geek factor! 🙂 I love gadgets to begin with so cigar smoking introduced to me to a whole new realm of gadgets. But honestly they don’t really add any enjoyment factor to the experience. Some wooden matches, a cutter or in a pinch a razor blade is all you need. My preferred method of upping the enjoyment factor is some good company or a good book along with a good drink.

Chris: So is it an expensive thing to do?

Cigar Choice: You can get started fairly cheap. A plastic air-tight food container or cooler can work as a humidor if you plan to keep cigars for more than a couple days. Right now my favorite lighter is a Ronson torch lighter- one of the best cigar lighter. The only thing that is worth dropping the extra cash on is a good cigar cutter. A bad cutter can destroy your cigar by damaging the wrapper, maybe even rendering the cigar unsmokeable. I learned to set a budget for myself to keep it from getting too expensive. Some of the cheaper bundled cigars can be had for under $2 a cigar. Typically these are short filler and use the scraps from the more expensive cigars.

Chris: Which is your all time favorite?

Cigar Choice: My all time favorite is the Partagas Serie D. No 4 from Cuba. A close friend of mine gave me one that was nearly five years old and I’ve never tasted a cigar that good again. Pair something like that with some really good rum and it can make for a fantastic evening.

Thanks Chris for putting together these questions together. If any readers have some recommendations or additional advice please feel free to post a comment.


This is a guest post/interview provided by Chris Garrett. Chris is one of the pro bloggers that I read on a regular basis for new ideas and blogging strategies.

Gurkha Master Select Perfecto – Unique Shape and Awesome Draw

Gurkha Master Select Perfecto – Unique Shape and Awesome Draw

As you may know, Gurkha releases a ton of cigars each year in limited batches with absurdly high MSRPs that somehow always get discounted from online cigar stores. Unfortunately many of Gurkha’s brands are in and out of stock just as quickly as they are produced, thus it is hard to find a great smoke and be able to get it consistently. One exception for Gurkha is the Master Select Perfecto. It is a great cigar that is a reliable smoke and even more reliably available when you want it.

Like the name implies, the Master Select Perfecto lights perfectly. As designed, lighting the perfecto is no challenge. I bought a five pack of this cigar and never had an issue with an inconsistent burn. Every opportunity was so refreshing. When toasting the perfecto, a couple of short puffs was enough to bring the cigar to a full light. No burning taste and nothing overpowering. What a joy.

The Master Select brand is a great opportunity to experience a cigar that is designed to change strength and taste throughout the smoking experience, again due to the perfecto shape. Upon starting the first third of the cigar, the taste is rather mild. Once you get half way through the cigar takes on a medium to strong taste. Finally, on the final third, the cigar goes back to a mild taste.

Throughout the smoking experience I tasted some spice, common to Gurkha medium bodied blends. There were also hints of vinegar and cider. Nothing too complex, this is a great casual smoke and finished in under 45 minutes. The smoke was a heavy gray and quite pleasing to look at.

Finally, I really relished the feel of the cigar in my hand. The oily wrapper was well constructed and never threatened to come off. In fact, the humidity I was keeping the cigar at gave it a great feeling on my hands and could have easily been smoked doing some intense physical activity like the typical golf or fishing cigar smokers enjoy.

For the most part, Gurkha Master Select is a middle of the road smoke for the price. You likely won’t find it as a clearance option like so many limited run Gurkha’s that are available online. Instead, the price is fair and rarely discounted. It is also a shorter smoke for most people and that could play into the value for what you are getting.

Best Cigar Books for your Library

When it comes to having access to cigar information for some, either the Internet either just won’t do, or it takes a backseat to the good ol’ fashioned book. Understandable, considering that enjoying a stick is a textural experience as much as a visual, which is also the description of reading a book. With that in mind …

There are a number of excellent books for cigar enthusiasts. Whether a novice or a seasoned cigar pro, there are informative and beautiful books that any stogie hobbyist can enjoy. The following is a guide to choosing cigar books and the information they each contain. From cigar journals to detailed histories, there’s something for everyone in this guide.

The Ultimate Cigar Book: 4th Edition
  • Skyhorse Publishing
  • Richard Carleton Hacker
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Edition no. 0 (06/02/2015)
  • Hardcover: 400 pages

The Ultimate Cigar Book by Richard Carleton Hacker is the best selling cigar book of all time. It features descriptions of every cigar available in the world, including rare and obscure brands. It also features over 150 beautiful photographs in both color and black and white. It includes a guide to buying cigars and identifying counterfeits. Another wonderful feature of the book is a guide to matching cigars with alcoholic beverages. Other topics featured include how cigars are made and stored.

Cigars: Revised and Updated (v. 1)
  • Vahe Gerard
  • Publisher: Flammarion
  • Edition no. 0 (03/17/2009)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages

Cigars: Revised and Updated contains detailed information about tobacco harvesting and the cultural importance of cigars. It also features a convenient buying guide for consumers, listing the best websites, shops, and clubs to purchase cigars.

A second volume of the book contains information on the sensual elements. It includes reviews and ratings of the sensual elements of a number of cigars.

Cigar Dossier Designed to Track and Rate your Cigar Experiences
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Publisher: Mako Pub Inc
  • Edition no. 1 (07/01/1995)

Cigar Dossier is an excellent book for the enthusiast who wants to record reviews of the cigars he has smoked. The beautiful journal has room for hundreds of reviews. Each entry contains a number of prompts including the brand, cost, wrapper color, and size of the cigar. It also has a special area for pasting the cigar’s band. The book allows consumers to learn which cigars they enjoy best and the factors that influence their enjoyment.

The Illustrated History of Cigars (The pleasures of life)
  • Bernard Roy, Maurice Szafran, Bernard Le Roy
  • Publisher: Harold Starke Publishers (History of Cigars)
  • Edition no. 2 (11/01/1999)
  • Hardcover: 216 pages

The Illustrated History of Cigars is an excellent coffee table book for cigar lovers. It contains a number of beautiful illustrations featuring some of the most popular brands of cigars. It also features interesting and intriguing explanations of cigar production and social significance. The book is meant more as a conversation piece rather than an informative guide, but cigar enthusiasts will enjoy the illustrations and amusing histories of their favorite cigars.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cigars, 2nd Edition: Buying and Smoking Tips to Know Before You Light Up
  • Tad Gage
  • Publisher: Alpha
  • Edition no. 2 (01/02/2007)
  • Paperback: 368 pages

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars is one of the best books for those just starting out in cigar smoking. It provides the basics needed to purchase, store, and smoke cigars. The book outlines a number of factors that influence the taste of cigars including length, circumference, ring size, and country of origin.

It’s designed to train the consumer where to buy, what to buy, and how to purchase cigars. Those who are more experienced with stogies may not find the book particularly useful, however, it may still provide valuable information about finding brands with the desired taste.